First Steps to a Colorado Hyperloop Will Be Via Buses

It’s good to see progress! From the ashes of a old bus program along I-70 called FREX, a new FREX will emerge with WiFi and Toilets! Thank you CDOT! The Denver Post describes the setting:

Buses with passengers from Colorado Springs, Fort Collins and Glenwood Springs — and points in between — will be among those scheduled to eventually roll into the newly revamped Denver Union Station transit hub.

The commuter bus service over the state’s most-traveled corridors will be provided by the Colorado Department of Transportation and should start early next year at a cost of $10 million.

CDOT says its bus system, which will be run by a private contractor, is a needed first step in providing a statewide transit system.

“It really pulls Colorado together unlike anything before,” CDOT spokeswoman Amy Ford said.

The CDOT system will be the second coming of the Front Range Express — or FREX — bus system, which daily shuttled Colorado Springs commuters to Denver.

FREX was discontinued in August 2012 because of budget woes in Colorado Springs, which funded the service.

CDOT’s 13 new buses will accommodate 50 passengers with reclining seats, fold-down tray tables, Wi-Fi and 110-volt electrical outlets, and bike racks. Most important, they will include restrooms.

Read more: CDOT buses will find a home at Union Station – The Denver Post http://www.denverpost.com/news/ci_25697256/cdot-buses-will-find-home-at-union-station#ixzz32AF4ny00

Also, the Colorado Springs Gazette has an editorial that has more information:

The Front Range Express, which shuttled passengers between Colorado Springs and Denver on luxurious buses, may be back by late 2014.

“This is imminent. It’s not pie in the sky. We are down to dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s,” said Les Gruen, the Colorado Transportation Commission’s Colorado Springs representative.

Craig Blewitt, director of Mountain Metropolitan Transit, wrote in an email he’s hopeful the service will operate as early as October 2014.

“The commuter bus service will have three segments: Colorado Springs to Denver, Fort Collins to Denver, and an I-70 segment connecting mountain resort towns to Denver,” Blewitt wrote. “The Colo Springs to Denver segment restores FREX. The other two segments are totally new.”

The bus service would be funded by FASTER, a bipartisan transportation funding law enacted by the Legislature and former Democratic Gov. Bill Ritter in 2009. It increased transportation revenue with a $2 daily car-rental fee and a new weight-based vehicle registration system.

The proposed buses will be larger than the previous FREX buses, which were not small, and will contain restrooms.

The CDOT proposal for restoration of service, which must be approved by the Transportation Commission, came after CDOT hired a consultant to study demand.

The old FREX service was of extraordinary value to professionals who commuted between Denver and the Springs. The average household income of regular FREX riders was $72,000.

Even though Denver and other communities benefited from the service, it was disproportionately subsidized by Colorado Springs. Although City Council tried to keep the service functioning, Mayor Steve Bach refused to sign a contract because he wanted the money for better bus service within the city limits. Politically, it made no sense to subsidize high-wage professionals at the expense of more than 4,000 Social Security recipients and low-income residents who needed more bus service in town.

Still, the loss of FREX probably made Colorado Springs a less appealing residential and business location among those who want easy and affordable transportation to and from Denver. It just makes good sense to link the state’s two largest cities with routine bus service.

Like most cities, Colorado Springs wants more jobs for young, highly educated professionals. Regular shuttles to and from Denver – a city that can attract professionals from the likes of Chicago, New York and San Francisco – make Colorado Springs a more attractive option. One can live and work in the Springs, enjoying majestic views and seemingly endless outdoor recreational opportunities, and get cosmopolitan amenities by merely boarding a bus for a short ride up I-25.

For Springs-Denver work commuters, the bus provides an hour each way to work on laptopd or tablets – something they cannot do while driving cars.

Extending the service to Fort Collins only stands to make it more useful to people all along the proposed route.

The old FREX was a fantastic service with a nonsustainable and unfair means of financial support that burdened Colorado Springs. What CDOT proposes – a state-funded service along a corridor of millions of Colorado residents – makes good sense. By all means, use FASTER proceeds to restore Front Range bus service as soon as possible.
Read more at http://gazette.com/state-may-bring-back-frex/article/1507774#3hA8ufu4hEm8JjV2.99

Even  the Westside Pioneer had an article:

A FREX by any other name?
A weekday commuter route between Colorado Springs and Denver, which ended for financial reasons a year and a half ago, will return late this year or in early 2015, based on a January vote of the Colorado Transportation Commission.
But unlike FREX (short for Front Range Express), the new, as yet-unnamed service will need no subsidy from the City of Colorado Springs. It will be funded by the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) from an annual allocation of operating funds from the Statewide FASTER Transit Pool, according to Michael Timlin, CDOT bus operations specialist.
Individual fares will also be charged (amounts to be determined).
Frex had been costing the city about $1 million a year until Colorado Springs Mayor Steve Bach overrode City Council on the issue in the summer of 2012, saying the money should be used instead on fixed-bus routes. A few hundred people a day rode the Frex buses.
In an e-mail Feb. 3, responding to a set of questions submitted by the Westside Pioneer, Timlin described the CDOT plan, as follows:
“On Jan. 16, 2014, the Transportation Commission approved the funding [to operate an] express bus service. CDOT will become a ‘transit agency’ and will contract with a private provider to operate the service, much like Mountain Metro Transit does.
“There are actually three corridors that are the focus of the new bus service, Colorado Springs- Denver, Fort Collins-Denver, and Glenwood Springs-Denver.
“While we are targeting operations start-up [from] late 2014 to early 2015, much is still in development in the way of station stops, schedules, etc. I can tell you that the service will concentrate on park-and-ride lots and service will terminate/originate at Denver Union Station, with at least two pick-up/drop-off stops in Colorado Springs with one in Monument.
“Fare structure, while still a work in progress, is expected to be commensurate with the FREX service.
“The vehicles are anticipated to be 45-foot intercity- type motorcoaches with air-ride suspension, wheelchair lift, lavatory, 50-seat configuration for extra leg room, WiFi, reclining seats fitted with fold- down tray tables, cup holders, foot rests and a 110-volt dual-power outlet for each dual seat unit.
“CDOT is not making a $10.9 million investment for a ‘test’ program. Unlike FREX, the CDOT service has an annual allocation of operating funds from the Statewide FASTER Transit Pool . However, in the unlikely event performance goals are consistently unmet like ridership growth, farebox recovery, on time performance, revenue, and expenses, the Transportation Commission has the option to make changes like eliminating service in one or more routes, or terminate the service entirely.
“Sometime this Spring, after we have selected a ‘brand’ we will begin public out-reach and communications and gather public input on service levels, fares, etc.”

http://westsidepioneer.com/Articles/020314/Frex.html

Any State funded transit solution that offers citizens cheap and reliable rapid transit along the front range is good for the future Colorado Hyperloop! As one commenter to the Gazette Editorial says “HALLELUJAH! So glad that our state government has more sense than the city. Next up: commuter rail from Pueblo to Fort Collins.” Indeed!

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