Breckenridge’s Free Ride public transit celebrates 1 million trips in 2017 | SummitDaily.com

Breckenridge’s Free Ride public transit celebrates 1 million trips in 2017

Just counting to a million takes the average person about a month, according to mathematicians' best estimates. For Breckenridge, however, moving that many people can be done in just under a year.

The Breckenridge Free Ride bus system on Wednesday eclipsed 1 million rides in 2017, showing how far the town's public transportation system has come since 1861, when the town's first transit services for the general public were offered via stagecoach.

"We count them passenger by passenger," said Andy Cotton, transportation supervisor, as he explained how the town got to the magic number. "We knew it was going to happen (Wednesday), and it was going to happen sometime (Wednesday) morning."

Town officials celebrated the milestone by offering free coffee and doughnuts out of the Breckenridge Transportation Station on Watson Avenue, and by printing a large banner emblazoned with the words "1 Million Free Rides."

With the banner in hand, Mayor Eric Mamula and council members Elisabeth Lawrence, Wendy Wolfe and Jeffrey Bergeron each took one corner and held tight as they waited for a Breckenridge trolley to slowly drive through the poster.

Inside the trolley were six lucky riders, including one who was presumably taking the millionth ride of 2017. They all smiled, pumped their fists and high-fived as they stepped outside the trolley's side door.

"I think it says that the town is growing, the bus system is growing and we're just very fortunate to have this many skiers and locals who like to use the system," Cotton said of the moment.

The millionth ride for the public transportation system follows the recent unveiling of a new smartphone app and online portal that allow people to track Breckenridge buses in real time.

Town staff showed off the new app to town council last month, and when they did, the council members' attention immediately shifted to their tablets and phones like teenagers at a dinner table.

"We carved a little time in the agenda for you to make sure (the app works)," Town Manager Rick Holman told the elected officials as they thumbed their phones for more than 10 minutes during the Nov. 14 council meeting.

Also, the Breckenridge Free Ride system will soon be fully integrated with Google Maps, said town spokeswoman Haley Littleton, who explained that it will allow travelers arriving at places like Denver International Airport to make connections all the way up to Breckenridge with the town's bus routes incorporated in the maps.

According to figures provided by the town, the system's ridership is up almost 20 percent year-to-date with 865,509 rides given through the first 11 months of 2017.

Beyond that, Breckenridge saw a 5.8 percent increase in November compared to the same month in 2016. At the same time, shuttle rides were up more than 450 percent.

Individually, the purple route experienced one of the largest percentage increases in ridership this year with almost one-third more people using the line. Meanwhile, the purple B route skyrocketed, going from 2,175 rides through November last year to 4,829 during the same time frame this year, an increase of over 200 percent.

By far, the most traveled route of the Breckenridge Free Ride system is the yellow line, which runs north and south along Highway 9, from Colorado Mountain College up to the base of Breckenridge Ski Resort's Peak 9.

Through November, there were more than 423,000 rides logged on just the yellow route, which accounts for almost half of the system's total ridership, according to the town. "We're here for the people," Cotton said responding to a question about what he thinks people should know about the Free Ride system. "I mean, this is a free bus system. Where else has a free bus system that is dedicated to moving people around in the community — getting them to work, getting them to doctors appointments — and doing it as frequently as we are?"

Many of the pickup locations feature a stop once every 30 minutes, he said. Others run as often as every 15 minutes. The buses operate seven days a week until almost midnight.

To find Breckenridge's new bus system app, search "My Free Ride" at the app store or go online to mybreckfreeride.com/map. People can also follow the Free Ride bus system on Twitter.

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