Colorado began two huge ventures this summer to ease congestion along the state's busiest highways, and early reviews are lauding the Bustang.
The state-owned and operated bus system was launched in July, and its initial popularity is prompting calls for expansion.
First-time riders find the Bustang convenient, comfortable and relatively inexpensive.
"Are you kidding?" said Gina Perez-Kohl last week while waiting at Denver Union Station to take the Bustang to Colorado Springs. "It's cheap, only $12 from Denver to Colorado Springs. You can't beat that."
"If I didn't have this bus, I'd be trying to find a ride and having to pay a lot more money," she said.
Transportation officials hope Bustang will help connect major population and employment centers along Interstate 25 from Fort Collins to Colorado Springs and on Interstate 70 between Denver and Glenwood Springs during peak weekday commuting times.
Single-ride fares range from $9 to $28 on coaches that seat 50.
"I loved it, it was absolutely perfect," said Linda Baker, who took the Bustang in Loveland to come to Denver to visit her nephew. "It's so much easier than driving."
So far, the north and south Bustang routes average about 140 riders a day, and the west line has about 60 a day — with 30 each way, said Amy Ford, spokeswoman for the Colorado Department of Transportation.
"We've been real pleased," said Ford. "Ridership on both the north and south routes are decent, and after about seven weeks of operation, it is steadily growing."
CDOT expects ridership to go up. In fact, CDOT is staging a second bus to handle overflow for the west line.
Bustang weekend service begins Friday between Denver Union Station and the Colorado State University campus.
Using Bustang makes sense because more and more college students are electing not to bring a personal vehicle with them to campus, said Aaron Fodge, CSU's alternative transportation manager. "Bus tang helps support that decision while connecting them with Denver and their families."
It is also hoped that the buses will help ease the traffic congestion — at least during the week — along two choked interstates, added Mark Imhoff, CDOT's director of transit.
The fleet features 13 buses in rotation on each route. All the coaches are handicap accessible and equip ped with restrooms, bike racks, free Wi-Fi, power outlets and USB ports.
It cost about $10 million to start the Bustang service, and it will cost about $3 million annually to run, CDOT said.....
For information about Bustang fares and schedules, go to ridebustang.com.
Monte Whaley: 720-929-0907, firstname.lastname@example.org or twitter.com/montewhaley