Bustang regional service connects Craig, Steamboat to Denver

Bustang Outrider, a rural bus network run by the Colorado Department of Transportation, started operating a route from Craig to Denver on Jan. 1. The new route allows passengers to make a round trip to Denver in one day.

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Continuing its push to expand the state’s rural regional busing network, the Colorado Department of Transportation added a new route at the beginning of the year between Craig and Denver, operating each way daily.

The route is part of the department’s Bustang Outrider program, which is aimed at providing regional transportation for things like medical appointments, education and shopping.

Leaving from Craig at about 6:15 a.m. and stopping in Steamboat Springs an hour later, riders would arrive at Denver Union Station by about 11:20 a.m., assuming the bus is on schedule. The bus does not leave Denver until 3:15 p.m., allowing passengers to take care of business and still make the bus back in the same day.

“There have been so many challenges for people that don’t necessarily have a vehicle or can’t drive for getting down to the I-70 corridor and down into Denver for medical appointments,” said Jonathan Flint, transportation manager for the city of Steamboat Springs. “There is excellent medical care up here, but a lot of the specialists are in the Denver Metro area.”

Since 2018, the Bustang Outrider program has slowly expanded, starting with the Interstate 25 and 70 corridors. The Craig-to-Denver route is the fifth bus line in the program, and Bustang will further expand this summer, adding three more routes.

Flint said there have been talks about bringing one of these bus lines to Northwest Colorado for a while, particularly for something that would allow a round trip in a day, but still give people enough time in Denver for a medical appointment or to go shopping.

“I think that the hours of operation will be really conducive for the people that need to get down to Denver,” Flint said.

The route started Jan. 1, and Greyhound is currently contracted to supply the buses and the drivers. Later this year, the route will transition to using Bustang buses, but Greyhound will still provide drivers.

“The route will be transitioning to Bustang Outrider sometime early in 2021,” said David Krutsinger, director of transit and rail for CDOT in a statement. “Because we wanted to get this line up and running and serving northwestern Colorado as soon as possible, we decided it’s best to partner with Greyhound Lines in the interim while we continue making our final preparations to implement our latest Outrider route.”

While there have been Greyhound lines that operate to and from Denver, they would pass through Steamboat in the middle of the day, meaning a trip to Denver would need to happen over at least two days, Flint said.

There is daily enhanced cleaning on buses to sanitize them, masks are required for all drivers and passengers and some seats are blocked to ensure social distancing. There are face masks, latex gloves and hand sanitizer available on all buses.

Another potential bonus of the program is that it is another regional bus traveling from Craig to Steamboat. While the local transit pass cannot be used to pay the fare on the Bustang bus, it could be an alternative for riders, Flint said. The Bustang bus will stop at the same stops in Craig, Hayden, Milner and Steamboat as the Steamboat Springs Transit’s regional bus.

While the Bustang route is set up mainly for people from rural places to make a day trip to Denver, it could also be used to bring people from Denver to Steamboat to recreate, like the Snowstang buses did last year.

That program is not operating this year because of COVID-19, but Flint said this new bus route could fill some of the void.

“I think it will be another opportunity for people to get from the Front Range up to Steamboat without having to drive a car for recreational opportunities,” Flint said.

People could catch the train from Denver International Airport to Denver Union Station and then take a bus to Steamboat from there, he said.

The route will service several cities along U.S. Highway 40 including Milner, Hayden, Steamboat Springs, Kremmling, Hot Sulphur Springs, Granby, Tabernash, Fraser, Winter Park and Idaho Springs. It will stop at both the Denver Federal Center and Denver’s Union Station.

A ticket for a trip to Denver from Craig costs $34, from Steamboat costs $27 and from Granby costs $13. Fares are priced at 17 cents per mile and are half price for those over 65 years old, children younger than 11 and people with disabilities.

The route also connects Steamboat and Winter Park, opening up the opportunity to use the bus to spend time at both ski resorts.

“People can use it also to take advantage of the recreational opportunities back and forth with the two ski areas,” Flint said.

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