City plans bus service expansion as transit money rolls in

COLORADO SPRINGS — The bipartisan infrastructure bill passed by Congress in November brings good news to Mountain Metropolitan Transit in Colorado Springs. On Wednesday, the Federal Transit Authority announced how much cities and states will receive as part of the $20 billion funding increase provided for in the bill.

Colorado Springs will see its federal transit funding increase from $9 million in 2021 to about $11.4 million in 2022, an increase of about 26%.

Transit Director Craig Blewitt said the money will help buy more buses to expand service.

“So as we add new services, we will need more buses to grow our fleet, as well as ongoing operating and maintenance costs. And this additional funding will allow us to do that,” said said Blewitt.

The city’s bus fleet is also going green. A trio of zero-emission all-electric buses will enter service on Earth Day. They were purchased with money the state received as part of a settlement with Volkswagen over the diesel emissions scandal.

The expansion of the service must be done in a transparent way. Blewitt explained that Mountain Metro regularly meets with the community to make decisions about route adjustments and extensions.

“We have transit plans that we’ve developed with our citizens here in the community over time, and with those plans, those plans call for both improved service where we already provide service as well as to services in new areas of urban density,” he said.

The increase in federal funding comes at a time of increasing traffic in the city. Blewitt recognizes changes in the workforce and changes in gas prices as potential causes of growth.

“As we come out of the pandemic, people are moving more and more, people are going back to work and commuting from home or telecommuting from homelessness,” he said. “So as that continues to change, and you’re right, I think gas prices are definitely making a difference and people are starting to look at other options.”

The speed of federal funding also helps Mountain Metro deal with rising inflation. The city is paying higher costs this year for supplies, contracts and basic business costs.
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Melvin Z. Madore