Thursday, June 14, 2007

Denver's Call A Ride

As I mentioned yesterday, as part of my journey in Denver I had the opportunity to ride Denver's transit system including the Dial A Ride. The picture above is of the Dial A Ride bus at the Dry Creek Station after it had dropped me off. I had already ridden this bus over to the motel about an hour earlier. All the people in the picture are actually attending the dedication ceremony of the new bridge that brings people from the light rail station, across Interstate 25 to the east side of the freeway and past the new park n ride lot.

The only other bus service in this area is the 77 route which I also took, but it only runs primarily during the peak periods.

The concept of the Dial A Ride is that it will be at the light rail station approximately every 30-minutes. Once you board, you just tell the driver where you want to go and you are on your way. Now when you want to be picked up you either tell the driver or you can also make a call up to an hour before you want to be picked up.

This is an excellent alternative to fixed route bus service in areas that are in close proximity to a light rail station (or it could be any transit center but then again we don't have many non-TRAX transit stations). UTA is half a.. doing this with the route along 9400 South after the big changes. However, it will still try to maintain a schedule and a route where a Dial A Ride has a certain coverage area and the only timepoint is to be at the light rail station every 30-minutes. One of the downsides of the RTD system in Denver is that there is no schedule on when it will be at the station but I never had to wait. Apparently it sits at the station until it needs to pick up people.

The only downside of the system for me was the hours. While it was great coming in from the airport and heading to my meeting, because it stopped running at 8:00pm I had to walk back to the motel after dark. However, at least it wasn't UTA who would have probably stopped the operation at 6:00pm like they do with many bus routes.

I think the Dial A Ride would be great for areas like Sandy, the Sandy industrial area, and several others. Daybreak is planning to have shuttles once TRAX heads out there and that would be a terrific place to have this kind of operation.

The Denver operation is run by contractors in the case of the one I road it was operation by Laidlaw Transportation. This type of operation will probably only be economical was a contracted service which means the bus drivers union will scream bloody murder. I have no problem with contracting so long as the transit system properly overseas the operation to insure quality service to its customers. However, most transit systems that contract do not have good oversight and considering how UTA does not take its customers into account in many instances, I would not hold my breath on adequate oversight.

Call A Ride is an innovative system and it is something that needs to be looked at not only at UTA but other transit systems as well.

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