Rising bus ridership has Breckenridge working on new transit plan | SummitDaily.com

Rising bus ridership has Breckenridge working on new transit plan

Would easier access to bus stops, more frequent arrivals, expanded service times or new direct routes encourage heightened use of Breckenridge’s Free Ride public transportation system?

Breckenridge wants to know this and more with a town-issued survey posing those questions along with over a dozen others. The hope is to gather answers that will help produce a better public transportation system.

Realizing that ridership on Breckenridge’s free public transportation system has increased dramatically in recent years, town officials see this as an opportunity to continue trying to grow these numbers.

Moreover, they want to ensure that residents, local workers and tourists alike view the town’s free public transportation system as “a primary choice” in the busy ski town that gets weighed down by traffic gridlock, especially during peak travel times.

In the first quarter of this year alone, ridership on Breckenridge’s Free Ride system easily surpassed the half-million mark, which continues a longstanding trend of exceptionally strong growth in ridership for the system that logged almost 190,000 rides in March alone.

For the month, ridership was up a remarkable 21.8% — or 33,886 passengers — compared to March 2018. It was the second busiest month in Free Ride history.

“I know, it’s pretty crazy,” said Jennifer Pullen, assistant director of public works, before adding the Free Ride system also broke its ridership record for April this year, too.

Only two months prior, ridership was up 10.5% over February 2018, and that was described as a slower month. Compared to 2017, last year brought a 16.6% spike in ridership, making it the fourth straight year the system has experienced double-digit growth.

Since 2008, the Free Ride system has seen ridership increase by 70% overall, according to figures previously produced by the town.

“We’ve obviously been adding service and routes so it’s not exactly the same service over that time,” Pullen said, attributing some of the increases to the town’s efforts to keep growing the system.

The increased ridership has Breckenridge officials thinking now might be a good time to retool the transit system since town staff are currently working on a new transit plan, last done in 2008, and seeking feedback through the online survey to aid them in the effort.

The survey is designed to help local officials better understand the current public transportation system and any opportunities for improvements, as the survey’s questions aim to drill down into exactly how, when and why people are using the transit system.

The survey itself is straightforward and easy to take. With 17 questions — mostly multiple choice — it requires about five to 10 minutes to complete. Respondents can expect to be asked how often they ride, their reasons for using the free transportation system and which routes they take the most often, among other things.

Many of the questions are multiple choice, but others, like what kind of additions might encourage greater ridership, give respondents a chance to offer some suggestions.

“Our hope is to have several different data points form the survey so our consultant can use those data points to analyze and build on that data,” Pullen said, explaining the goal is to look at people’s behavior and ultimately see what Breckenridge’s Free Ride system might do internally to capture even more riders.

Pullen expects crafting a new transit plan will be about a five-month project and town staff aim to update the document in the fall.

For more about the Free Ride system, including routes, schedules, a link to the online survey and more, go to BreckFreeRide.com. People can also keep up with the Free Ride system by following @BreckFreeRide on Twitter or downloading the My Free Ride smartphone app.

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