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Changes underway for Mountain Express bus service

Mountain Express, Archuleta County’s public transit system, is rolling out a new bus schedule and system — call and ride — in attempts to better cater to the system’s ridership and to gain new riders.

Under the new schedule, which is still in the testing phase, Mountain Express will continue running morning and evening “express” runs, but will not run a regular route during the day other than the free uptown grocery run that occurs six days a week.

The morning and evening express runs between Pagosa Springs and Turkey Springs and Aspen Springs will continue to be $1 per ride.

Now, instead of running regular daytime routes in between the express routes, however, Mountain Express is trying out a call-and-ride program.

For $2, a rider can call a day in advance and schedule for the bus to pick him or her up at a specific time between 8 and 9:50 a.m., and between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. for a one-way trip.

Archuleta County Transportation Director John Egan said the change is a move to both save money by not operating the bus without riders, and to increase the system’s passengers-per-ride figures.

Currently, there is no minimum number of passengers for the call-and-ride program, Egan said.

Egan said the idea for the new program was hatched with the help of Missouri transportation consultant Peter Schauer, whom the county began working with in 2011, in a move to increase effectiveness.

Egan said several area agencies also weighed in on the changed schedule, such as Seniors, Inc., Colorado Workforce and the county Department of Human Services.

Egan and Commissioner Clifford Lucero are optimistic that the new system is streamlined and will serve a broader population.

Egan said the new call-and-ride system could be an ideal program for those taking their car to the shop, needing to go to a medical appointment, and more.

The new program also aims to avoid competing with private cab businesses, Egan said.

“I don’t want to take the bread out of someone else’s mouth,” Egan said.

And while Egan hopes the change to Mountain Express will increase ridership and help the program, he acknowledged that the public transit system is facing another challenge — funding the uptown grocery run six days a week.

When City Market closed its downtown location last year, the Pagosa Outreach Connection began sponsoring the almost-daily grocery run.

Now, Mountain Express is seeking another sponsor for the program, which costs about $500 per month.

Egan said he has contacted City Market about sponsoring the program, which shuttles people from the old, downtown City Market location to the uptown City Market Monday through Saturday at 10 a.m., and back downtown at 11 a.m., but, he added, thus far, has not met with success.

For more information on either the changed schedule or the uptown grocery run, call 264-2250.

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