New Bus Line Plan Moves Forward
By Kathy Bedell © Saguache Today
Transportation. It’s usually at the top of the list for needed improvements in Saguache Today. Getting from one end of the San Luis Valley to the other can be a real chore for coordinating medical appointments or shopping trips, especially if you don’t have your own wheels. But there’s good news.
According to Saguache Chamber of Commerce President Barry Van Sant, the newly established Western San Luis Valley Transit Committee (West SLV) has made significant strides in bringing a new bus line to the valley, perhaps as early as June 1.
“As a remote community, with few services, it was a natural fit for the Chamber to pursue CDOT (Colorado Department of Transportation) about this initiative and investigate the possibilities of bringing transit service to the important Gunbarrel travel corridor,” said Van Sant.
Those efforts are now more than a year in the making, and include coordinated efforts from the Town of Saguache, the Town of Center, the City of Monte Vista, the Town of Del Norte, Rio Grande County, Saguache County, and the Saguache Chamber, all of whom entered into a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) by establishing the West SLV.
As the population in the valley grows, transportation needs do as well. So West SLV is staying ahead of the curve and in partnership with the Chaffee Shuttle acting as the fiduciary agent, the group has submitted a proposal for a $25,000 CDOT grant. These monies will allow the group to hire a transit consultant to investigate and research the routes, potential ridership, and pricing for the development of an ongoing public transit service.
According to the Chaffee Shuttle’s Executive Director Connie Cole, West SLV will likely secure those funds in the fall, initiating a more formal study. However, in the short term, something else in the transportation world has shifted, creating the opportunity to bring in an interim shuttle service with a target start date of June 1. The Eagle Line Shuttle will provide service from Del Norte to Salida and from Saguache to Alamosa once a week.
For readers who may not know, the Chaffee Shuttle was created in 2003 stemming from Salida’s Neighbor to Neighbor program that Director Connie Cole has been running for the past 19 years. In 2017, this transportation system provided more than 15,000 FREE rides to Chaffee County residents and visitors, taking them to the doctors, to Wal-Mart and yes, even to the liquor store. Although the service is free, donations help offset operating and vehicle maintenance costs.
It’s been a popular service. So much so, that last year Bustang announced that they would be stepping in and carving out a couple of the shuttle’s routes. Bustang is the increasingly popular luxury transportation line which connects the major corridors in Colorado, offering free wi-fi and comfortable accommodations for its passengers. Its success along the 1-25 and I-70 corridors is a testament to the shifting norms regarding public transportation.
“Bustang is going to take part of my bus routes that run from Alamosa to Salida to Pueblo, and from Gunnison to Denver,” stated Cole in an exclusive Saguache Today interview.
And that’s great news for West SLV because as Bustang absorbs those routes, it frees up three buses from the Chaffee Shuttle fleet. And if all of the rest of the moving pieces fall into place, that could mean wheels on the ground sooner, rather than later for the newly developed Eagle Line Shuttle.
One of the initial challenges will be drivers. Down the road, funding might be available, however to get things rolling now, West SLV Transit is currently seeking two volunteer bus drivers to run these routes. One driver would be located in Del Norte, the other in Saguache. Those who are interested in volunteering one day a week to drive the Eagle Line Shuttle should contact Connie Cole, at 719-530-8980.
But that’s not the only way readers can help. You can also take a brief transportation survey. Not only will this data provide some information on the short term needs, it will also demonstrate community support for future funding opportunities. In other words, a few minutes of your time, will mean expanded transportation opportunities matter to you! Thanks! The survey can be found HERE.
For more information about West SLV Transit contact Saguache Chamber President, Barry Van Sant at 719-322-7298.
“These leaders are working hard to provide transportation to their communities,” stated Cole. “The program is being successfully talked about and moving forward!” Please show them your support!