FLEX transportation service gaining ridership
Last Updated: 17:33 March 28, 2012
LONGMONT — In June 2010, the FLEX transit service began operating a bus route along U.S. Highway 287 connecting Fort Collins, Loveland, Berthoud and Longmont. Now, more than eight months later, the service is proving to be on track in terms of ridership demographics, according to Nicole Hahn FLEX's transit planner.
“As of the end of December, we're averaging 17 passengers per hour per bus,” Hahn said. “We're hoping to eventually get 20 passengers per hour per bus — that's the standard we're shooting for.”
Hahn said that by the end of 2010, FLEX was serving 500 passengers per day. But while the year's end brought increased ridership, it also brought changes for the system.
In January, route modifications were put into effect that extended the line to downtown Fort Collins during peak travel times in the early morning and late afternoon. In addition, a fourth bus was added to the fleet.
At the same time, an early morning bus at 4:45 a.m. from Fort Collins was discontinued, Hahn said, because it was only getting four passengers an hour.
“A lot of analysis goes into ensuring that this route will be productive,” she said. “Every month, we take a look at the statistics. We look at any changes that would make the routes more productive.”
The Monday through Saturday service operates between Fort Collins and Longmont during peak morning and evening hours, and between Fort Collins and Loveland in the late morning and early afternoon.
Passengers pay $1.25 for a single ride on FLEX, and can transfer directly onto both the COLT and Transfort systems. While RTD's Eco Pass, Transfort and COLT passes are accepted on the FLEX system, passengers boarding onto the RTD system still have to pay the RTD fare or use an RTD pass.
The FLEX system is federally funded through the Congestion Mitigation Air Quality, or CMAQ, program, which provides funding for surface transportation projects that result in air quality improvements and traffic congestion relief.
The $1.2 million grant was awarded for a two-year period to determine if the FLEX system is warranted and can operate successfully in the region.
In addition, the city of Longmont was awarded an American Reinvestment Recovery Act grant, which was used to purchase the FLEX bus fleet.
As of now, Hahn said that there are no plans for a fare hike. But at the end of the CMAQ funding, the partnering municipalities and communities will need to continue to demonstrate support for the service — support which may include local grant matching as well as other types of community contributions.
“On the current fare system, we'll need a long-term funding plan at the end of the CMAQ grant,” Hahn said. “We've already applied for a third year of grant funding to ensure continued operating dollars.”
With the trip from downtown Fort Collins to Longmont taking little more than an hour, Hahn said that the system has proven to be an efficient method of transportation for commuters going back and forth between the two cities, as well as for those transferring to RTD routes into Boulder and metro Denver.
“FLEX is supposed to provide the best solutions for the most people,” she said. “We want to make it the most efficient service possible. And we're confident that the changes we've made will make it into a one-seat ride for those transferring onto RTD routes,” she added.