Three months after launching a part-time free bus service between the Grand Junction Regional Airport and downtown, Grand Valley Transit ridership has held steady along that route during a period when numbers tend to decrease.
The Dash service, which runs from 4:15 p.m. to 12:15 a.m. every Thursday through Saturday and adds a route to Las Colonias Park during special events, launched March 21 in an effort to better connect the airport, Horizon Drive and Colorado Mesa University to downtown Grand Junction.
Even though CMU has been out of session for most of the time the route has operated, Grand Valley Transit believes the route is off to a strong start.
The Dash runs along Route 1, which was slightly modified to accommodate the new service.
"It's actually gone up and held steady in our typical summer drought," Andrew Gingerich, transit coordinator for Grand Valley Transit, said of Route 1 ridership.
Numbers tend to sag in the summer, Gingerich said, with summer vacations and no school for CMU and District 51.
So far in 2019, Route 1 ridership has averaged the most passengers per month for the past three years, according to numbers provided by GVT. May was a busy month with an estimated 2,052 riders taking advantage of the Dash service. More than 800 used the free ride for the Junior College World Series when the service was expanded.
"I think the early numbers are encouraging," Gingerich said.
The Dash service was funded for one year through a partnership between the Downtown Development Authority, city of Grand Junction, Colorado Mesa University, Horizon Drive Business Improvement District and Grand Junction Regional Airport. The DDA contributed $35,000. The city and CMU each pitched in $10,000 and the airport and Horizon Drive BID each threw in $5,000.
Horizon Drive BID Executive Director Vara Kusal said she's received positive feedback from Horizon Drive hotels about the Dash service.
"It's a nice service for visitors," she said.
Gingerich is interested to see how the numbers change once CMU students return to town.
CMU is promoting the Dash service through a variety of partnerships, including featured stops. It will also highlight First Friday events through its downtown art gallery, 437CO, and partner with local businesses such as Taco Party, Carlson Vineyards and Kannah Creek Brewing Co.
A freshman orientation event Aug. 15 will take students downtown via the Dash and inform them of what they can get if they use the Dash and present a CMU ID card.
Caitlyn Love, marketing and communications specialist for Downtown Grand Junction, is hopeful that the service will provide a way to draw more people to public transit through its design and connectivity possibilities.
"Not only is it about the look, but connecting the whole corridor so people get a mental image that it's not that far to get from the airport to downtown," Love said.
EDITOR'S NOTE: An earlier version of this story contained incorrect statistics regarding Route 1 ridership after the start of the Dash bus service.