LONGMONT - Redirection of some federal dollars will keep a regional commuter bus service running between Longmont and cities in Larimer County through the end of 2013.

FLEX buses, operated by the city of Fort Collins and funded by fares, contributions from local governments and federal dollars, connect Fort Collins with Regional Transportation District routes that serve Boulder County and metropolitan Denver.

FLEX carries an average of 20 riders per hour, up 30 percent from when the route started as a pilot program in 2010 and 63 percent higher than the "Foxtrot" route between Fort Collins and Loveland that it replaced.

The Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement Grant from the Federal Highway Administration was to run through June 2013, but Kurt Ravenschlag, TransFort general manager, said the service now can continue through the end of 2013 thanks to reallocation of $200,000 from another federal grant that funded the Larimer Lift, a paratransit service formerly operated by Larimer County.

"The grant went to the city of Fort Collins and it was up to us to allocate it," Ravenschlag said. "When the county discontinued Larimer Lift, we chose to reallocate it to FLEX."

From two sites in Longmont - RTD's newly expanded hub and park-and-ride facility at Eighth Avenue and Coffman Street and a streetside stop at 23rd Avenue and Main Street - FLEX buses travel north to Berthoud, Loveland and Fort Collins.

Ravenschlag said he believes more federal transit funding may be on the way to help continue the service, which costs about $730,000 a year to run.

One-way full fare is $1.25 for any distance, with free transfers to the TransFort system in Fort Collins and the COLT routes in Loveland. Discounts are available for children, students, seniors and the disabled, or through the purchase of ticket books and monthly passes.

In comparison, the full fare for RTD regional service is $4 between Boulder and Longmont and $5 between Denver and Boulder or Longmont.

Ravenschlag said raising fares eventually may be part of a future plan to keep the service running.

"We kept fares low during the pilot program," he said. "Raising fares is a very extensive process, to be in accordance to Federal Transit Administration rules, but fare structure is something we're ready to consider."