Apr 152012
Authors: Jason Pohl

When it was introduced at the end of last year, the late-night bus route, servicing mostly tipsy crowds around Old Town and throughout Fort Collins, just seemed like a nice idea that might add to a growing transportation system in the city.

Everyone seemed to agree reducing drunken driving, lowering cab wait times and quickly dispersing meandering crowds in the wee hours of the morning was something the downtown district badly needed.

Now, more than two months after the Green and Gold routes rolled onto the streets, bringing with them exuberant college kids shouting, “Bus driver, you rock,” the Safe Ride Home program appears to be a success.

“I think we’re in a phenomenal position,”said Chase Eckerdt, director of Governmental Affairs for the Associated Students of CSU.

In its first two months of operation, the four buses serving two routes transported 3,743 people during 18 nights of operation, according to data released last week by Transfort.

“I think we’re in really good shape,” Eckerdt added. “We’re right on target.”

The buses service Old Town and areas to the west and south of CSU’s campus between 11:30 p.m. and 2:30 a.m. Friday and Saturday nights. Each ride costs $1; only cash is accepted.

The one-year trial project is being funded largely by Fort Collins Police Services, who have contributed $50,000 through red-light traffic tickets. An additional $17,000 comes from student fees each semester, and the remainder is being generated from rider fares and advertising.

FCPS supported the service early on, citing a need to break up the large and often rowdy crowds in Old Town around closing time. So far, they say it has been a success.

“In leaving the area quickly, the congestion is eased and confrontations are mitigated,” said Capt. Jim Szakmeister in an email to the Collegian. “Police Services has noticed an impact that we hoped to achieve.”

Szakmeister did note that people have “drank too much and passed out” on the buses during the first two months. In those cases, police officers were called to help riders get home safely if a driver cannot wake them.

Moving forward, Kurt Ravenschlag, the interim general manager for Transfort, said advertising and promotion will remain the biggest push for the program. Beyond that, no big changes are immediately planned for the service.

“Awareness is always something we want to improve upon,” he said.

ASCSU is continuing to work on a comprehensive advertising campaign, especially as the summer months draw near. This, “concentrated dose,” of advertising, according to Eckerdt, will ensure the program’s success during the summer months.

Beyond that, the question will be how to keep the buses running when the one-year trial ends in early 2013.

“I think the challenge is going to be to look at long-term funding sources,” Eckerdt said. “I think that’s definitely an accomplishable goal.”

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

CSU: $17,000 per semester in student fees
FoCo: $50,000 from police services

1,823 total rides
1,920 total rides

Total: 3,743 rides

Details including routes, pick-up times and additional information can be found online at www.fcgov.com.

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