Westside ridership model to get new look in next bus rapid transit study

       The Westside will not have a bus rapid transit (BRT) corridor, based on recommendations that went before the public this week.
       However, the corridor recommendations could change or be expanded - even after approval by the Federal Transit Adminis- tration (FTA), according to Phil Hoffmann, principal transportation planner for Parsons Transportation Group of Denver.
       Hoffmann has helped lead what he termed a “pretty exhaustive process” to develop a preliminary plan for BRT, which would be a speedier bus service than what is currently available in Colorado Springs. There is no estimate how soon any such improvements would be implemented, but it's likely to be several years.
       A public meeting June 15 was the last step before the recommendations go to Colorado Springs City Council in July. The recommendations are then to be sent off to the FTA to gain approval and - Hoffmann hopes - fresh funding to allow a more detailed study of the corridors.
       He said that could also mean another chance for the Westside, which had made the first “cut” - from 22 original corridor candidates down to a field of 9 - but not the final selection of 4 corridors. The proposed Westside corridor would be Highway 24 west to Manitou Springs.
       One Westside issue that will get additional scrutiny regards ridership. Under statistical models used in the current study, “it appeared that (the BRT) would not generate that much ridership,” Hoffmann said. “That surprised me. Further studies have to be done.”
       His expectation is that a more sophisticated ridership model will be used in the detailed study, which could eventually lead to a full BRT - with a dedicated, 24/7 bus lane along the designated corridor - or at least some form of faster bus service for the Westside. Examples are an express service (a bus that makes fewer stops) or intermittent bus-lane dedications.
        At the same time, he said it took a “pretty rigorous screening process to get to the corridors that make the most sense in the long term.”
       The four recommended corridors are:
        · The Red Line - Nevada Avenue/Highway 115/I-25 from Fort Carson to Air Force Academy.
        · The Orange Line -Academy/Union Boulevard from Drennan Road to north of Woodmen Road.
        · The Blue Line - Garden of the Gods/Austin Bluffs Parkway from I-25 east to Woodmen Road.
        · The Green Line - Fountain Boulevard from downtown to Academy.
       Considered initially in the process was extending Garden of the Gods farther west to 30th Street, Hoffmann said, with a major reason being that the area has one of the highest worker concentrations in the city. However, it was left off when the routes were narrowed down.
       The study also looked at light rail and commuter rail. But the Pikes Peak Area Council of Governments' projection that area population in the year 2030 will be about 800,000 was key in the decision not to recommend such faster but more costly mass- transportation measures, Hoffmann said.
       The $500,000 study was funded with 80 percent federal funds/ 20 percent city.

Westside Pioneer Article from a press release