At the first Transit Advisory Committee (TAC) meeting of the new year, Transit Manager, Michael Koch, started the meeting off with an update on winter ridership. He told the committee that November showed a near 44% increase in ridership over the same month in the prior year (2018: 25,462 riders; 2017: 17,717 riders). The slow start to the 2017-2018 season had resulted in lower ridership at the start of the previous season, but it normalized by mid-December. Koch said December numbers were more consistent with last year, showing about a 1% increase over 2017 (2018: 84,583 riders; 2017: 83,929 riders). The numbers for January again showed an increase at 11.46% (2019: 118,604 riders; 2018: 106,409 riders).
Koch also noted “there had been a slight decline in black line riders and spikes in the red line, which was expected” due to changes made to the lines this winter.
The Regional Commuter Line, which runs between Winter Park Resort and Granby has shown increases in every month since it began year-round service in November 2018. The addition of several bus stops along the route has also contributed to ridership growth. In November 2018, a total of 539 riders used the service, as compared to 228 riders in November 2017, resulting in a 136% increase. December 2018 saw 4,944 riders over 3,968 in 2017, a 20% increase, and January 2019 had 6,611 over 6,261 in 2018, a 5% increase.
Koch said he and First Transit Manager, Mike Fudge, will be looking at the Regional Commuter Line in order to make recommendations for possible changes to improve efficiency and better serve the ridership. Once they have several options developed, they will host Open Houses in Granby and in Winter Park/Fraser to present options in route schedule, share information on the route and remind the community of the route’s year-round status. “We’ll let the public tell us which alternative will work best for them”, said Koch.
The system’s two newest 35’ Gillig buses have been “wrapped” and were brought up on Thursday, January 31. Koch was working on getting them registered and they will be added to the fleet immediately. “It’s very exciting”, said Koch.
Also this week, “Ride Systems (the company that hosts the Lift Rider app), will install remaining GPS units on the few buses that did not have them. While they’re here, they will also be looking at vehicles with existing GPS units to make sure the equipment is holding up well in our environment’, said Koch.
Next, they will be demoing automatic voice announcements on the buses. Hanover Displays provides free equipment for a period of a few weeks, so they’ll be trying out a robust system with “all bells and whistles”, said Koch. The system would better allow drivers to focus on driving and safety and is capable of tracking ridership. “The demo is to see if the technology will work up here.”
The Transit Advisory Committee next reviewed a summer request for service change from Robin Wirsing, of Allegiant Management, on behalf of Lakota East. They had requested one of the stops be shifted a short distance from the existing stop.
Michael Koch and Mike Fudge will go out and check the requested change for safety and feasibility and advise Wirsing of whether or not the request is approved. If approved, the change in location of the stop would take effect when they switch over to the summer route in April.
Service Requests for summer were due by January 15, and requests for next winter are due to the committee by April 1.
Committee member, Mike Fudge told the committee “now that we’re going on year 3, we need to look at getting 6 – 8 buses in to be refurbished, and at adding another bus to the fleet. In the past 30 days, between 8 and 9 buses have been down”, said Fudge. “The current facility is inadequate and the buses were not built to be outside.” Fudge added, “I’m not sure what the expense would be, but these are buses we can continue to use for 7, 8, 9 years. In the long run it’ll be worth the investment”. Fudge told the committee that Bus 30 went down last week and the engine was the issue. It could cost $25-30K to repair. Some of the refurbished buses in the fleet had been bought for as little as $1,500, and they’re already wrapped, so fixing and repairing them is the most cost effective way to sustain the fleet. A new bus costs around $480,000. He said he would look into a company based in Lamar to see if they still repair buses.
Fudge also told the committee he would like to find a place in Granby to park the buses inside. “The drivers have to warm the buses up for 30 minutes to get them ready for the route, which adds time to their day.” He clarified that the 6 am route driver starts both buses every morning.
Committee member, Laurie Mason, asked Koch, “The season is half-over, have you received alot of comments?”. Koch told her “the most common is issues are with buses not showing up on the Lift Rider app, which is an issue with the gps. When Ride Systems came out to install the gps on the buses in the fall, there were two buses missed. We should have them all fixed by the end of the week. The schedule is still in the app, but buses may not show up until all the buses have gps”. Koch added that he hadn’t heard any complaints about late or missing runs. “People are happy to have free transit”, said Mason.
Mason, who also works at the Chamber Visitor Center, said riders of the ski train have experienced frustration when they arrive in town. Those that don’t ski think they can take the train or catch a bus to visit Rocky Mountain National Park or Devil’s Thumb Ranch, and that’s not possible. “Better education needs to be done with ski train guests”, said Mason.
No new updates were given on the new Transit Center, which will be located on the east side of the town’s parking structure in Cooper Creek Square. As for the Transit Maintenance & Storage Facility, Koch said, “We are tentatively planning to submit a Special Use Permit (SUP) application to County Planning Commission this upcoming Friday, which would put us on their March 13th agenda. As part of this process, we will be presenting conceptual designs for the facility, traffic analysis, etc.”. A possible location would be near the County Road and Bridge Shop on County Road 5 .
To learn more about Winter Park’s Transit system, visit wpgov.com. Be sure to download The Lift Rider app from the Apple or Google Play store and take your next ride on The Lift.