Locals call on Bustang Outrider to add route from Chaffee County to Colorado Springs Airport

· Jan. 17, 2024, 4:00 am
CDOT's Bustang Outrider service connects small towns in Colorado to larger cities. CDOT's Bustang Outrider service connects small towns in Colorado to larger cities. Courtesy Colorado Department of Transportation
CDOT's Bustang Outrider service connects small towns in Colorado to larger cities.

A petition to create a Bustang Outrider route between Chaffee County and the Colorado Springs Airport is gaining traction. Right now, the regional state-run bus network stops in Buena Vista on a loop from Crested Butte to Denver's Union Station. From there, travelers headed to Denver International Airport (DIA) have to take an RTD train.

Petition organizer Adrienne Schwartz said the bus is often late and tends to be full by the time it arrives in Chaffee County. Schwartz lives in Buena Vista part-time, traveling back and forth from Texas. She said the trip from DIA is a hassle.

"It takes 30 minutes just to walk from the gate to outside and then another 40 minutes to get to Union Station," she said. "Then you have to wait a couple hours (for the bus) and it's another three hours to go from downtown to our little town."

Schwartz said making travel plans around the existing bus is tricky. Taxi fare for the roughly two-hour trip from Chaffee County to DIA has cost her close to $300. 

"We're hoping having another route gives people an option at least to fly in and out of a smaller airport and just get to Colorado Springs if needed," Schwartz said.

Jeffrey Prillwitz is the program manager for the Bustang Outrider service. Other routes include Lamar to Colorado Springs, Trinidad to Pueblo, and Alamosa to Pueblo. He said stakeholder interest - like the petition - is one of the things the agency looks at when determining new routes. 

"Once we establish that there's a viable route and that people want it, we do a lot of outreach to the communities - just to make sure, as we have limited funds," he said. "We're a victim of our success. People want a lot more routes than what we have."

From there, the agency would put out a request for proposal and find an operator for the route. Budgeting is also a consideration. The availability of buses and drivers willing to brave the mountain passes also poses a problem.

Prillwitz acknowledged the issues with the current availability for travelers heading to and from Chaffee County to Denver. He said budgeting has already been approved to add a second bus to the route.

"We've been hearing from the community up there for literally years that they need a second trip on that route," he said. "The issue, again, is just getting buses for it." 

But he also recognized the draw of the Colorado Springs Airport for people who might want to avoid DIA and the time it takes to get there. 

In a statement, Greg Phillips, Director of Aviation at the Colorado Springs Airport, said he would welcome any form of transit connecting Southern Colorado communities with the airport.

"Transportation, whether through air travel, bus transit, or any other mode is important for any community," Phillips said.

Adrienne Schwartz, the woman who started the petition, said she and many others would benefit from a route to Colorado Springs.

"The more I talk to my neighbors and the more I talk to friends that live in the valley, they all agree that there are times that they could definitely use a bus, not just to the airport, but even to downtown Colorado Springs for appointments there or a shopping trip," she said.

People who commented on the online petition gave similar reasons, but also added it could provide alternative transportation for residents of Colorado Springs wanting to explore Buena Vista. 

Bustang has seen similar callouts in the past. Last summer a group rallied for stops on existing routes in cities along the Continental Divide Trail and Colorado Trail. Prillwitz said the agency hopes to have those in place this summer. 
Other Bustang subsidiary services cover Front Range cities, the 1-70 corridor and seasonal services to Broncos games and skiing.

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