Long-distance bus service from Durango to Grand Junction is set to arrive in the region in the near future.
Roadrunner Stage Lines, based in Ignacio, will make one round-trip per day from Durango to Grand Junction for a reasonable, proposed one-way fare of $37, reports Peter Tregillus, program director for the The Southern Ute Community Action Programs.
SUCAP is offering the service in cooperation with state and federal transportation authorities. It will run seven days per week, including holidays.
"Unfortunately, we do not have a start date. But the good news is that we did receive our contracts this week to purchase the buses for our expanded bus service," Tregillus said. "We and the public are very eager to get started because we know there is a real need for public transportation in this rural area."
The route from Durango will travel U.S. Highway 160 to Mancos and Cortez, along Colorado Highway 145 to Dolores, Rico and Telluride, then onto Ridgway, Montrose, and finally to the Grand Junction Greyhound station via Colorado Highway 62, U.S. highways 550 and 50.
"We are coordinating with Greyhound scheduling so travelers can continue to Denver or wherever from there," Tregillus said. "Unfortunately, Ouray and Silverton will miss out."
Exactly where the bus stops will be located in different towns has yet to be determined, he said.
SUCAP will be negotiating with gas stations and other locations for use as bus stops and to determine if tickets can be sold there. Tickets can also purchased online, or from the bus driver.
The plan is to install small bus stops with signs in smaller towns with scheduling information. If there is no one at the stop, the bus will continue on.
The service will be subsidized by the Federal Transportation Authority. Revenues will be raised by fares, with additional operation costs funded by the federal government up to $200,000 per year.
The 40 passenger, MCI Coaches cost between $100,000 and $500,000 depending on new or used condition. There will be a luggage hold, that will also accommodate bicycles.
"A lot of families, travelers, workers, service workers, people without a license, Fort Lewis College students, seniors, social services, the list goes on, will be taking advantage of this transportation option, so we are really excited to get started," Tregillus said.
If a deal can be worked out to lease buses while negotiations to purchase a permanent one are conducted, service could begin in four to six weeks, he said.
The service also will open transportation options for people traveling anywhere along the route in either direction as well but with just one round-trip per day, opportunities will be limited.
The schedule reveals interesting opportunities. Cortezians could board the bus at 6:40 p.m. and arrive in Durango at 8:17 p.m., but would have to spend the night and ride home the next day.
The schedule would work out well for Durango mountain bikers. Enthusiasts could board the bus at 7 a.m. to Cortez or Dolores, bike Phil's World or Boggy Draw all day, and catch the bus back to Durango from Dolores at 5:57 p.m. or from Cortez at 6:40 p.m.
Bored Cortez, Mancos and Dolores residents could arrange a weekend getaway to Grand Junction for shopping, hiking, biking and nightlife entertainment for a round-trip fare of less than $70. Riders could board the northbound 7:45 a.m. bus in Cortez up to Rico, bag a peak, have a beer, soak in the hot spring, and get the return bus at 5:13 p.m.
This is the first regular bus service through this area that anyone can remember.
"We plan to be around for the long term," Tregillus said.
The public is encouraged to check the www.sucap.org/roadrunner/index.php for the latest updates about the upcoming bus service.