Bus capacity limits mean some riders are left behind

A Breck Free Ride bus is pictured in this file photo. Some transportation agencies have been asking the state to increase capacity limits on public transportation.
Photo from Summit Daily archives

At Tuesday’s Breckenridge Town Council meeting officials discussed the possibility of expanding bus capacity.

Town Manager Rick Holman told council that there has been some recent outreach across the state to Gov. Jared Polis’ office to increase the capacity on buses. Holman said the Colorado Association of Transit Agencies had a request denied last week by the governor’s office to expand capacity on their buses.

“At this time, the state is not ready to relax those standards,” Holman said. “We’ve seen a little spike (in COVID-19 cases) in the last week. They still want to get through any additional potential spike due to the holidays. I think this is a cautious time for them right now.”

Holman said the transit association’s request was to increase capacity on buses to 50%, which would mean an additional seven to eight riders could board Breckenridge buses. Holman said the Breckenridge buses are currently able to transport 17 riders per bus at a time, which is calculated based on the length of the bus.

Holman said the county also “doesn’t feel the time is now to be loosening the standard.”

“Maybe a week from now or two weeks from now,” Holman said Tuesday. “Who knows?”

Holman said some Breckenridge bus drivers are having to leave people behind at peak times due to the current capacity limit on buses, something he said is happening at the county level, too.

Breckenridge Public Works Assistant Director Jen Pullen said the problem is a daily occurrence.

“It’s pretty much every day,” Pullen said. “We’ll run a chase bus when we can to catch anybody we are leaving behind. I’d say it’s not all day, more in the mornings and afternoons.”

Council member Kelly Ownes said she’s observed bus drivers skipping stops altogether when buses are full.

Breckenridge Mayor Eric Mamula said the current capacity limits and other COVID-19 protocols not only put a burden on guests, “but it’s also tough on drivers, too.”

“They’re almost like enforcers,” Mamula said. “They are in a weird position being in the front of the bus. They can’t communicate well with you when they’re behind that plexiglass screen. It’s definitely a burden.”

Even if the town wanted to run more buses, Holman said he’s not sure it has the number of drivers that would be required.

Holman said he doesn’t expect any immediate changes to the state’s regulations and added that he thinks the town has “great” health precautions in place on the buses, including keeping some windows open.

“The average ride time on buses is 15 minutes or less,” Holman added.

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