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Upwardly mobile: Call-n-Ride service going strong after 10 years

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By Vicky Gits

Nicky Hamid has three kids of her own and runs a day-care for six other children ages 2 to 5.

Peter Foley is retired and lives in Green Ridge Meadows Apartments and doesn't own a car.

 

One thing they have in common is Call-n-Ride, the curb-to-curb RTD service that takes riders — on-call with an appointment, on a first-come, first-serve basis — to anywhere in a designated service area.

In Evergreen it is commonly known as "the green bus," a 12-person van frequently seen chugging up and down Evergreen Parkway all day long.

The adult one-way fare is $2.25; the discount fare is $1.10 (applies to seniors 65-plus, people with disabilities and ages 6 to 19).

The popular service celebrates 10 years of operation in March. Since its launch in 2002, Call-n-Ride has grown to an average of 108 boardings every weekday and nearly four boardings per hour, or a total of 28,734 rides annually. In 2008, boardings reached a high of 4.4 per hour.

That doesn't mean the capacity is maxed out, said Debbie Corthell, transportation coordinator at the Seniors’ Resource Center, which runs the Call-n-Ride service in Evergreen.

"We think we could handle five boardings per hour," Corthell said.

"We serve a lot of students,” she said. “Evergreen is a bedroom community. A lot of parents are working down the hill, and kids need a way to get around. We do some day-care centers and kindergartners."

A group of kids from Evergreen Middle School takes the bus to math class at Evergreen High School three or four days a week.

"It's such a blessing," Hamid said. "A lot of people are special-needs and elderly who can't drive and still want to live in Evergreen. There was a young guy working at El Rancho as a chef. I do it because I have six day-care children every day. We go to the playgrounds, skating and hiking. They drop us off and pick us up at the other end."

It’s an ideal service for the Evergreen area, which has a large population of children, teens and retired, a non-centralized commercial district, and not enough population density for a regular circulating bus system.

Call-n-Ride is authorized and subsidized by the Regional Transportation District, but the service is contracted out to private operators like the SRC in Evergreen, which hires and supervises drivers and provides coordination.

Call-n-Ride is not a thing of the past — it is actually the wave of the future, says Bruce Daly, RTD board member from Evergreen and a former RTD bus driver.

"When our rail lines go in, a lot of the giant 40-foot buses will switch to feeder lines going to the train stations …,” Daly said. “The plans are when the west corridor lines go in, there will be new Call-n-Ride services in Green Mountain and Golden. It's a growing service because of the trains."

Call-n-Ride has about the same funding structure as RTD, meaning about 20 percent of the cost comes from the fare box and the rest is subsidized by taxpayers, Daly said. Ridership seems to improve when the economy is hot and declines when the economy starts to slump, Daly said.

Getting off the ground

"We approached RTD about providing Call-n-Ride 10 years ago, once we found out what programs they had,” said Evergreen resident Rocky Graziano. “At first they were reluctant to talk to us because they never had it in a low-population-density area. We got other organizations, like the PTA, who were interested because schoolchildren had no way of getting around."

At the time, Green Ridge Meadows residents were paying $5 a trip to use the Seniors’ Resource Center service. When Call-n-Ride got going, it cost 50 only cents, Graziano said.

"The whole thing was we were paying (RTD) taxes and we weren't getting the benefit of it," Graziano said.

Ten years later, it turns out Call-n-Ride is a lot more than rides for seniors. A lot of students, from grade-schoolers through high school, take it to after-school activities. People take it to the RTD bus stop in the morning and to get home from the car-repair shop.

The SRC competes against other providers to get the contract from RTD on a year-to-year basis. The contract is up for bid in June.

Currently the service has two buses that operate from 5:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. weekdays and from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturdays (no service on Sundays).

The service is limited to an area from El Rancho on the north to about Brook Forest Road on the south and covers about three-fourths of a mile on the east side of Highway 74 and a half-mile on the west.

Numbers provided by RTD show the ridership has decreased since 2008, when it reached a peak of 126 boardings per weekday (4.4 per hour). As of 2011, total boardings per weekday were 108 (3.7 per hour), and total boardings on Saturday were 35 (3.5 per hour).

As part of a regional cost-cutting effort in October 2011, RTD cut the Call-n-Ride service by one hour to end at 7 p.m. instead of 8 p.m.

Peter Foley of Green Ridge Meadows rides the green bus four or five times a week for grocery shopping, going to church and going to the Little Bear after church.

"I'm mentally disabled (bipolar)," Foley said. "If I couldn't get out, I would go over the top."

"The drivers are fantastic," Foley said. "They are so caring. The system is just perfectly run. It's not at all hard to get a ride when you want one. Most people know it's better to call the day before because drivers don't answer the phone while they are driving."

Drivers take their own calls and make their own itineraries. There are different numbers for the "A" bus, going north, and the "B" bus, going south.

"The buses are so clean and so well maintained, it's just a pleasure to ride them," said Foley, whose hobby is teaching adults and seniors Philly-style classic ‘50s and ‘60s rock-‘n’-roll dancing.

Contact Vicky Gits at vicky@evergreenco.com or 303-350-1042.


INFO BOX

 

To call for a pick up …

For the green bus, call in advance and make a reservation. Call-n-Ride will provide an estimated pick-up time. When the bus arrives, pay in cash. Drivers may combine trip requests to create shared rides. Service is available on a first-come, first-served basis. Reservations should be at least one hour or up to two weeks in advance.

Fares: adults, $2.25; senior and discount, $1.10. Discount fare applies to seniors (65-plus), individuals with disabilities, Medicare recipients and elementary, middle and high school students ages 6 to 19. Exact change required.

 

For reservations:

• Zone A (north of Stagecoach Boulevard), 303-944-7474. Monday through Friday 5:30 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Saturday 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.

• Zone B (south of Stagecoach), 303-944-5777. Monsay through Friday 5:30 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Saturday 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.

 

Boardings per weekday

2005 122.7

2006 110.3

2007 116.6

2008 126.7

2009 114.3

2010 107.7

2011 107.7

 

(Source: Regional Transportation District)