Montrose residents abuzz about taking the bus
MONTROSE — Jack Ward calls it cheap and reliable. Anna Staley said it has been needed for years. And Larry Hardwick uses it every day.
When Montrose launched its public-transportation system in August, it found regular bus riders in Ward, Staley and Hardwick, plus many more. The daily average of riders in February for All Points Transit — it runs three city bus routes, including a connection to Olathe — was 111 in Montrose and five in Olathe.
That was more than the 112 riders per day that All Points Transit’s executive director, Terry Wilcox, said is enough to sustain the service indefinitely.
Among the regular transit riders is Janet Boyden, who doesn’t drive but now has a monthly bus pass.
“The first time I saw the bus I was jumping up and down,” she said.
Hardwick said the service is useful for people who don’t have their own transportation or, as is the case with Staley, can’t drive.
Hardwick uses the service to connect with an exercise gym, grocery store and social gatherings with friends in the downtown area.
“I’ve known people to sell their cars because it’s cheaper for them to take the bus,” All Points driver Robert Dobson said.
Wilcox said the company is working with city managers in Delta to create a similar service within a couple of years. A route from Montrose, through Olathe, to Delta and back is viewed as an area for future service growth.
All Points also provides a door-to-door service or “Dial-a-Ride” service to Montrose, Olathe and Delta; Nucla, Naturita, Paradox in western Montrose County; and Norwood in San Miguel County. Service to Grand Junction from Montrose is provided on the second and third Tuesday of each month.
All Points is a private, nonprofit company financed through grants, bus fares, donations and capital funds from county and city governments. The city and county of Montrose do not provide any funding for operational costs for the bus service, Wilcox said.
Matching grants totaling $339,000 from the Colorado Department of Transportation help fund the city’s service.
Wilcox said the company began researching the viability of a city bus service with CDOT officials in 2009 and spent most of that year planning new routes.
“We were approved for funding in January 2010, but we did not have the vehicles until August,” Wilcox said.
“I was told by CDOT that Montrose is the last community of a significant size to not offer any form of public transportation,” she added.
The city and the Montrose’s Downtown Development Authority contributed $13,600 apiece to All Points for capital improvements, including benches and shelters.
Montrose County gave All Points approximately $20,000 for 2011.
The city of Delta gave $14,556, and Delta County awarded $47,000 to the bus service this year. Those monies fund the Dial-a-Ride service within Delta and Montrose. San Miguel County gave $7,300 for demand service in Norwood.
“I’m watching the service with great interest to see if it succeeds,” Montrose Assistant City Manager Scott Sellers said.
He said the city is benefiting from having the bus service, adding the cost is aiding low- income residents the most.
According to the city’s 2008 comprehensive growth plan, a public transportation system with six routes could be implemented with a city population nearing 50,000.
According to 2010 census data, the city has a population of 19,132. At the current population, Wilcox said the service is maintainable.
The growth plan also describes the need for a city flex route, service for senior citizens and a commute program for workers.
Wilcox said 11 percent of people riding daily are workers.
All Points Transit recently began studying various social and economic factors that are leading people to use public transportation.
“We have been seeing an increase (in use), and it’s hard to gauge whether that’s a result of rising gas prices,” Wilcox said.
March passenger numbers could demonstrate whether rising fuel prices are driving more residents to area bus stops, she said.