As the Denver Business Journal’s Cathy Proctor reported last week:
Bustang, the Colorado Department of Transportation’s foray into regular statewide bus service, had a stellar first year, according to the agency better known for road and highway construction…
The agency had forecasted Bustang’s first year ridership at 87,376.
Actual ridership was 17 percent higher, with a total of 102,577 people taking Bustang through the end of June, said Bob Wilson, a CDOT spokesman.
CDOT expected revenues from paid fares to hit $647,817 for Bustang’s first year.
Instead, the actual revenue was 57 percent higher, with $1,014,781 recorded through the end of June, Wilson said.
As the Grand Junction Sentinel’s Dennis Webb reported this weekend, with the success of the system’s first year there is growing interest in expanding the Bustang service west:
The first-year success of the new state transit service called Bustang is spurring increased hopes of it one day galloping past Glenwood Springs to serve Grand Junction as well…
Wilson said the idea of extending the western service to Grand Junction is on the agency’s radar. There’s just no timetable for it occurring, and any expansion would require approval from the state Transportation Commission, whether additional funding is required or not.
“But extending it from Glenwood to Grand Junction is part of the plan,” [CDOT spokesman Bob] Wilson said. “… It’s become more likely as time has gone on because of the success of the west route.”
This story takes on added political significance because in this year’s legislative session, Republicans introduced legislation to eliminate funding for the Bustang system entirely. Even with income and ridership exceeding expectations, fares aren’t enough to cover the total budget for the Bustang service. The system is funded in part by revenues from the Funding Advancements for Surface Transportation and Economic Recovery Act of 2009 (FASTER) fee program. Longtime readers will recall that Republicans bitterly fought against FASTER as a violation of at least the spirit of the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR), suing and losing all the way to the Colorado Supreme Court–and perennially vowing revenge at the ballot box for this skewering of their most sacred cow.
Well folks, now they’d be taking something away that benefits voters. It’s easy to understand why even the conservative bastion of Grand Junction would want this additional transportation option. The practicalities run up against their rigid ideology, and ideology loses.
And with apologies to the ideologues, that’s how it should be.