New teal-painted buses sporting the Bustang logo will be coming to Durango as Road Runner Stage Lines formally joins the Bustang network. The merger is slated for July 1.
New, smaller and more modern 38-passenger buses will replace the 55-passenger behemoths currently used by Road Runner, and they are expected to arrive in Durango on April 1, said Michael Timlin, bus operations manager with the Colorado Department of Transportation. The buses will be labeled Bustang-Outrider.
Outrider service will be Bustang's extension to rural areas of the state outside the I-25 and I-70 corridors.
Besides being more fuel efficient, the 35-foot buses will have Wi-Fi service, plug-ins for laptops, a restroom, bicycle racks, wheelchair accessibility and undercarriage storage, Timlin said.
He cautioned about the spotty Wi-Fi service through the San Juan Mountains.
"Wi-Fi service to Telluride is dicey. I've done that drive," Timlin said. "When it's (Wi-Fi) not dark, it will be available."
Peter Tregillus, programs director with the Southern Ute Community Action Programs, which operates Road Runner, said SUCAP will continue to be the operator of the Durango-to-Grand Junction line, but joining the Bustang network opens the entire statewide Bustang network to Southwest Colorado commuters.
Bustang has operated six or seven buses per day from Fort Collins to Colorado Springs and several buses on I-70 in an effort to provide affordable mass transit and to cut down on traffic.
The new buses will be especially welcomed by Road Runner.
"There have been periods of time when we've operated with less-than-perfect coaches," Tregillus said. "We're learning as we go along. We've discovered we have extraordinary repair costs. The mountains really put wear and tear on the equipment, and I think the new buses will be more right-sized for the route."
Also, on July 1, Bustang is scheduled to begin offering Grand Junction to Denver service, replacing a Greyhound route that will be discontinued.
The Road Runner fare from Durango to Grand Junction is $40 one way. A run to Telluride costs $20.
Tregillus said a new fare structure will likely be unveiled sometime in 2018.
Timlin said Bustang fares are 17 cents per mile.
"In some cases, there will be a reduction in fares," Timlin said.
Fare collection on the new buses will be available on a mobile app, by tickets that can be printed online and by a fare box on the bus, Timlin said.
The stops on the Road Runner line to Grand Junction will remain the same under the conversion to Bustang, Tregillus said.
Road Runner stops in Mancos, Cortez, Dolores, Rico, Telluride, Placerville, Ridgway, Montrose and Delta before its final destination, Grand Junction.
Bustang is funded by fares and $3 million a year from CDOT FASTER funds, which are generated by surcharges on vehicle registration fees.
Timlin said various routes around the state have always existed, but few people were aware of them, and he said bringing all the routes into the Bustang network should improve public awareness of the routes and offer a platform for statewide marketing.
"Now, it's kind of piecemeal," he said.