Feb 052012
 
Authors: Jason Pohl

It’s not often you see college students get excited about an approaching mid-sized, plain-colored bus.

But the first weekend of the highly anticipated late-night bus service around Old Town and student housing areas had kids doing just that, marking the beginning of what could be a long-standing program for Fort Collins residents.

“I think it was absolutely a knock-out hit,” said Chase Eckerdt, the Associated Students of CSU Director of Governmental Affairs.

He explained that the level of awareness for the first snowy night was surprising, and the next steps are to gather data and get more reactions.

“Based on that, we can make adjustments,” he said. If that data all turns out to be supportive and interest continues to grow, “we have a darn good case to keep this thing going for exponentially longer.”

With the main pick-up hub located on the corner of Mountain Avenue and Remington Street, across from Coopersmith’s pool hall, compromised college kids stumbled their way to an all-knowing bus director, who ultimately herded them to the proper pick-up point.

“I think it was really, really helpful,” Eckerdt said, adding that it will be necessary for a while until more people learn about the routes and logistics.

The $1 ride is available to anyone, and only exact change is accepted.

Students and community members agreed that the program seemed to be a huge step in the right direction.

Waiting for the bus around 1:45 Saturday morning, anxious and chilled riders stood in the freshly fallen snow, but when the bus came into view, it was anything but peaceful.

Upon stepping up the stairs and onto the bus, it was like everyone was about to go on the vacation of a lifetime, even if just to their own home.

“This is the best thing ever,” shouted one person from the back of a nearly-full cabin.

“Bus driver, you rock,” yelled another.

Similar sentiments were expressed among residents in the Campus West area as they were dropped downtown to begin their night late Saturday.

Josh Chotiner, a senior psychology and French major, said the bus route is going to do more than just get drunken college kids home. Rather, he said its going to bring more business to the downtown area and provide people with a completely new way to get around town when they actually want to.

“I think it’s going to just add mobility for people,” he said, adding that the days of finding a designated driver and planning the night out are all-but-gone.

“For a dollar, you really can’t beat it,” he said.

The biggest way people seemed to be learning about the program was by word-of-mouth and social media.

Jen Tripodi, a senior philosophy major, learned about the new route through Facebook. While waiting for the bus Saturday night in single-digit temperatures, she said she hopes the program sticks around for longer than just a year and can be expanded.

“It gives students a new, cheap ride and a way to get home safely,” she said while comparing it to the system already operating in Boulder.

The program has been discussed since early last semester and was ultimately announced as a partnership between the Associated Students of CSU and Fort Collins Police Services, who aimed to reduce the number of drunken drivers and intoxicated people in Old Town as the bars close. Student fees and red-light tickets are shouldering $84,000 for the program.

Additional funds are being raised by advertising and individual fares.

The buses are being managed by Transfort, and operations have been contracted out to Veolia Transportation, which operates similar taxi and shuttle services around the country.

After a successful first weekend, planners say they will continue to focus on advertising and raising awareness and a customer base for the newest addition to Fort Collins’ Safe Ride Home program, which is being touted as one of the largest in the nation.

“As that base builds up, I think you’re going to see the ridership increase,” Eckerdt said. “People are pretty grateful to get a ride home. That’s the best thing.”

Senior Reporter Jason Pohl can be reached at news@collegian.com.

The numbers
260 rides Friday
11:30 p.m. to 2:30 a.m.
2 routes, Green and Gold
4 buses
Pickup every 15 minutes
$1 Fare
One-year pilot program

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