The Regional Transportation District, an agency that oversees the region’s transit infrastructure, is proposing to bring back the FF2 commuter bus between Boulder and Denver, the latest step toward restoring Covid-19-related service cuts that have long frustrated Boulder residents.
Under a proposal by RTD officials, three FF2 buses would begin running as soon as May 28, 2023. Even during rush hour traffic, the bus can travel from Downtown Boulder Station to Union Station in Denver in less than one hour. The slower FF1 currently operates along the same U.S. 36 route, but stops more frequently.
RTD suspended the FF2 in April 2020, in response to ridership declines during the pandemic. The agency hopes to restore transit services across the region to about 85% pre-pandemic levels by 2027, a goal likely to be complicated by a driver shortage.
“I hear more requests for the FF2 than for any other bus,” Lynn Guissinger, the chair of RTD’s board or directors who also represents a service area that includes the City of Boulder, wrote in an email to Boulder Reporting Lab. “This peak period service is a good start as RTD is able to hire more operators and other workers.”
The proposed service changes are partially a response to high demand, according to RTD, as the FF1 “regularly” exceeds max capacity during morning and evening commuting times. The proposal would add two morning and one afternoon FF2 trips, leaving Downtown Boulder Station at 7:07 a.m., 7:37 a.m. and 4:15 p.m. on weekdays. The bus would leave Union Station for Boulder at 7:45 a.m., 4:45 p.m. and 5:20 p.m.
RTD is also proposing to add a FF5 bus from Downtown Boulder Station to the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus. The bus would leave at 6:30 a.m. to help workers arrive on campus by 8 a.m., according to RTD.
As part of a “seasonal adjustment,” the agency wants to reduce services for the 225, DASH and JUMP to Lafayette, and the SKIP up and down Broadway. With the end of the ski season, RTD is also proposing to stop the ND in downtown Nederland, rather than going all the way to the Eldora ski area.
The RTD board of directors must approve the service changes.
RTD’s cuts to bus routes during the pandemic rekindled longstanding frustrations over transit services in the area. Voters in 2004 approved a sales tax to pay for a commuter rail from Denver to Longmont, known as FasTracks, that RTD never built. Much of that taxpayer money was used to pay for buses like the FF1 and FF2. (RTD is in the process of planning a similar, though less expensive, commuter rail that would stop in Boulder.)
More recently, Boulder officials have called on RTD to restore its bus service to Boulder Junction, a “transit-oriented” neighborhood built partially on top of an RTD bus station. Since April 2020, RTD has suspended all bus operations at the station. Its five-year service plan includes bringing back two of the previous five: the AB2 to the Denver International Airport and the FF4 to the Civic Center Station in Denver.
Last year, in response to anger over RTD’s service cuts, Boulder County officials persuaded the state to funnel $34 million in federal stimulus money, otherwise slated to go to RTD, to the county so it could restore local transit services.
That money was used to help resume the standard route for the HOP, a bus that circles CU Boulder’s campuses, and the Lyons Flyer, a free shuttle from downtown Boulder to Lyons. The HOP and the Lyons Flyer, formerly known as the Y, are operated by Via Mobility Services. Via also operates a free shuttle from Boulder to Gold Hill, known as the Climb, which is partially paid with county transportation sales tax revenue.
RTD is hosting a public meeting at noon on Wednesday, Feb. 22 to gather feedback on their proposed service changes. The agency is also collecting community feedback on a fare reduction proposal, which includes cutting the cost of a regional day pass from $10.50 to $5.50.