Ute Pass Express buses to run 15 times a day Monday-Friday
Shades of the old Midland railway, a bus that's meant to look like a train will soon be carrying passengers up and down Ute Pass.
Unlike the train days, when it opens for business Monday, Nov. 10, the Ute Pass Express will not have a Westside stop. But locals wanting to ride will be able to catch the new bus at the downtown terminal (Kiowa and Nevada), at the I-25/Tejon park-and-ride and next to Schryver Park in Manitou Springs (Garden of the Gods Place and Manitou Avenue).
The end of the line up Ute Pass will be Woodland Park, with stops on the way in Cascade and Green Mountain Falls. The ride time will be about 40 minutes, according to estimates by Mountain Metropolitan Transit, which is operating the Ute Pass Express.
The cost one way to/from Woodland will be $4 and to/from Cascade will be $2.50. Discounts will be given to old, young and disabled passengers. Multi-ticket packages with varying per-ride savings can be bought in advance (from Mountain Metro online at mmtransit.com, over the phone at 385-7433 or at King Soopers and Safeway stores).
To ride the Ute Pass Express, people must have exact fare or a pre-purchased ticket.
Operating Monday through Friday, the buses will run 15 times up and 15 times down the pass. Departures will be more frequent (about every 40 minutes) during rush-hour times. The earliest bus will leave the downtown area at 4:50 a.m. (from the I-25/Tejon park-and-ride).
The last bus in will arrive at the downtown terminal at 7:42 p.m.
Funding for two years of service and five new buses (costing nearly $100,000 apiece) is being covered by a federal Congestion/ Mitigation/Air Quality grant, according to Diane Evergreen of Mountain Metro.
“It's definitely targeted for commuters,” she said. “The goal is to reduce vehicles and improve air quality at peak hours.”
The greatest ridership is expected down the pass in the morning and up the pass in the evening. “Fifty percent of Ute Pass comes down to the Springs to work every day,” Evergreen explained.
For passengers wanting to go directly between the downtown and Manitou, the express will be a quicker way to go because it will have fewer stops than the Route 3 bus up and down Colorado Avenue, she noted.
The new 29-foot buses are handicapped-accessible and can hold 22 riders. Seats are padded and reclinable with reading lights and cup holders. Backpack-size storage is provided above the seats, wireless internet capability is available, and there is room for two bicycles to be carried on the front bumper.
“All aboard” is the message on the backs of the Ute Pass Express buses - harking back to the region's railroad years. The exterior paint on each is spiced by images of train wheels and the lamps that once served as clearance lights. “It's designed to look like a locomotive,” Evergreen said, “like the Midland trains that went up the pass.”
From that standpoint, the route is accurate - unlike the trail that follows the old Denver & Rio Grande right of way but is called by the city the “Midland Trail.” The Ute Pass Express, in using what is now Highway 24, will be taking the actual train route through the Westside, as it was used from 1887 to 1949.
Westside Pioneer article