October 22, 2009
A commercial bus route abandoned about five years ago is back, traveling from Denver to Salt Lake City, Utah, via Grand County towns on U.S. Highway 40.On the route’s second day back, Greyhound bus passenger Sally Guanella Buckland of Empire took advantage of the introductory $1 ticket to Salt Lake.”I’m so excited to see the route reinstated,” she said at the Granby Mini Mart stop before loading up on snacks, drinks and something to read. “I just had to ride it.” Buckland planned to do some genealogy research at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City as well as dine with friends.”I’m just tickled to see it going again. I would encourage people to ride it, so we have this.”After decades of running it, Greyhound stopped the mostly rural route because “it was not a profitable route,” said Tim Lukes, manager of Greyhound’s North America Agency Operations.The company had refocused on major city connections and left rural routes by the wayside. But from a Colorado statewide 2007-08 inter-city and regional bus study and from input from regional stakeholders, the route was deemed necessary, according to John Valerio, Colorado Department of Transportation’s transit planner.The Denver to Salt Lake route “really came out a priority,” Valerio said. “It’s a huge part of the state that lacks any inter-city connections.”State subsidiesBoth the states of Colorado and Utah began negotiating a way to subsidize the bus line.Combined, the states dangled an annual $655,000 subsidy in front of the blue dog until it bit.The money comes from Federal Transit Administration funds passed through from state transportation departments. Colorado receives around $8 million a year, with a requirement that 15 percent of it be put toward inter-city bus services, Valerio said. Annually, Colorado plans to contribute a cap of $380,000 per year to keep the Greyhound mountain line traveling, and Utah is contributing $275,000.According to Lukes, there is only one other situation in the nation where two states have worked together to fund a route the crosses state boundaries. The other is in California and Oregon, he said. As ridership grows, those subsidy amounts could decrease, Valerio said.”Greyhound may take a loss before the route really gets going,” he said. “We’re pleased to see Greyhound was willing to take the commitment for the route.”In many cases, he said, buying a ticket for the bus is cheaper than driving one’s own car.Rates vary according to the amount of lead time from purchase and whether they are refundable tickets. Tickets for Denver-Granby listed for Oct. 22 were in the $25 range, with $4 non-refundable tickets listed as well. Tickets for Granby-Steamboat were $20.One could buy a non-refundable walk-up ticket to go from Granby to Hot Sulphur Springs for $4. A ticket from Winter Park to Kremmling or vice-versa was $4 non-refundable/ $14.50 refundable. Both the Granby-Denver trip and Granby-Steamboat trip have a duration of two hours, depending on the weather.Luke spent the better part of Wednesday making sure Pete Gallo’s Mini Mart store in Granby was property set up with ticketing equipment. By selling tickets, Gallo – whose store used to be the Granby Greyhound stop before the line was discontinued – is set to make 9 percent in commissions. “It’s an interesting business,” Gallo said. “You always meet different people. It’s fun that way.”Greyhound passengers will spend a 15-minute layover at his location each day, twice daily.And from the looks of passengers re-boarding the bus on Wednesday, many will purchase travel items to get them through the next leg of their journey.- Tonya Bina can be reached at 970-887-3334 ext. 19603 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.