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HOP, SKIP, and JUMP aboard a Boulder Bus

Welcome to an innovative way of thinking about transit: ask your passengers to design routes, let them name them, and decide the frequency in which they operate. That's what Boulder, Colorado does and they sure seem to have discovered the right way to make bus riding fun and enticing!

Boulder boasts seven high-frequency bus lines with catchy, character-verb names like: STAMPEDE, DASH, BOUND, and BOLT, with all of the buses having their own color scheme and identity. It all started back in 1989 when Boulder endeavored to provide a real alternative to the car for its downtown commuters and as a result gave residents direct input into the process. In addition to creating comfy, frequent, pleasant buses, the city also instituted the Eco Pass, a transit card that allows residents to ride buses system-wide for free - more than doubling transit use between 1995 and 2005, from 15% to 34%.

Not that anyone is asking, but my suggestion for a new bus name: the ZIGZAG. Who wouldn't want to ride that?

<p><font size="3" face="Times New Roman">[intro music]</font> <br> </p> <p><font size="3" face="Times New Roman"><i>Clarence Eckerson Jr.:</i>  [00:03] Streetfilms is in Boulder, Colorado.  </font> <br> </p> <p><font size="3" face="Times New Roman">[music]</font> <br></p> <p><font size="3" face="Times New Roman"><i>Cris Jones:</i>  [00:22] In Boulder we have seven high frequency transit routes called the Hop, Skip, Jump, Bound, Dash, Stampede and Bolt.  And each of the routes has a unique identity, and that is designated by the logo that you’ll see at the bus stop, and the actual look and feel of the bus itself.  We’ve had graphic designers create cool, interesting graphics that are placed all over the buses.  </font> <br></p> <p><font size="3" face="Times New Roman"><i>Myriah Conroy:</i> [00:44] They’re smaller buses.  The drivers play their music, not too loudly, and they’re just much more of a Boulder flair type of bus.  They run on really just popular routes from various destinations around town.  And my kid knows them all by just the skin that’s on them because they all have really distinctive looks.  </font> <br> </p> <p><font size="3" face="Times New Roman"><i>John Tayer:</i>  [01:01] What is unique about these transit systems is they’re not operated and envisioned from the top down, from the transit agency and then imposed on the community.  Instead, they’re really built from the bottom up, from the grassroots.  </font> <br></p> <p><font size="3" face="Times New Roman"><i>Cris Jones:</i>  [01:15] Boulder is a city of just over 100,000 people and on any given day we have over 20,000 people boarding local transit services, and over 30,000 people boarding local and regional transit services.  So more than a quarter of our population essentially is riding on a bus on any given day.  </font> <br></p> <p><font size="3" face="Times New Roman">[music]</font> <br></p> <p><font size="3" face="Times New Roman"><i>Will Toor:</i>  [01:40] If you were to go back to 1990 and ask about what role did public transit play in Boulder, it was essentially a social service for people who had no other choice about how they got around.  Around that time period, folks began sitting down and saying, this isn’t what we want, we want to maintain the social service but we want a public transit system that can compete for people who have other choices.  Out of that came the idea of a new model where we would be offering high frequency routes that came every few minutes, routes would have a friendly feeling so you didn’t feel like you were a criminal when you stepped on the bus, instead you felt like you were a valued customer.  Routes would have a very simple route, either basically straight line up and down or going in a circle.</font> <br></p> <p><font size="3" face="Times New Roman"><i>John Tayer:</i>  [02:22] The city convened a group of citizens who then considered, okay, what should be the character of this bus system?  What would be a good name?  What would be a good colour scheme?  What would be a good image and marketing strategy for this system.  </font> <br> </p> <p><font size="3" face="Times New Roman"><i>Will Toor:</i>  [02:35] We really came to that by talking to people and asking, well, what would make you want to ride the bus?  And, you know, it wasn’t rocket science but it was just what any private business would do.</font> <br> </p> <p><font size="3" face="Times New Roman">[music]</font> <br></p> <p><font size="3" face="Times New Roman"><i>Cris Jones:</i>  [02:52] One of the first projects that the Transportation Department set out with was the creation of the Eco Pass, which is a universal bus pass that makes users eligible to ride any of the transit system throughout the region at no charge.  So that was our first tool to really increase transit use throughout the community.  </font> <br> </p> <p><font size="3" face="Times New Roman"><i>Will Toor:</i>  [03:11] And what we’ve seen is that a combination of the transit passes where a Downtown parking district, you know, people who are paying those parking permits and paying the meter fees, are actually helping to pay for Eco Passes for everybody who works in the Downtown.</font> <br></p> <p><font size="3" face="Times New Roman"><i>Cris Jones:</i>  [03:25] Here we are sitting on the Hop, it’s the city of Boulder’s flagship transit service.  We’ve got music playing on XM radios, we’ve got comfortable seats where people face each other so we can have conversations.  We have friendly drivers who we know their name because they have their name tags up on the windshields.  It runs every seven to ten minutes from 7am to 7pm.  So it’s really convenient and it’s based on what the community told us they wanted.  They didn’t want to carry a schedule anymore and so we provided a service that they didn’t have to.  </font> <br></p> <p><font size="3" face="Times New Roman"><i>John Tayer:</i>  [03:53] I came to the city of Boulder when they were first instituting the Hop.  What then became such a success that we then had to consider how to replicate it and sell it to our Regional Transportation District, which is the funding source for the transit in the Denver area.  </font> <br> </p> <p><font size="3" face="Times New Roman">[music]</font> <br></p> <p><font size="3" face="Times New Roman"><i>Myriah Conroy:</i>  [04:16] I do think we have a great network of buses here in Boulder and I also especially love that you can take your bike on the front.  </font> <br> </p> <p><font size="3" face="Times New Roman"><i>Marni Ratzel:</i>  [04:23] The public transportation buses throughout the city, and actually throughout the Denver metro region, accommodate bikes on the bus.  A bike rack for two bikes is on the front of the bus, and all of our regional buses, you can store your bike underneath.  Normally when you’re commuting in during the week, they’ll let you get about six bikes under there.  There’s three luggage racks, two per luggage rack.  </font> <br></p> <p><font size="3" face="Times New Roman"><i>Cris Jones:</i>  [04:47] Bike to transit is a very popular mode for people trying to get to the city of Boulder and around the city of Boulder.  There are some destinations where it’s much more logical to get there by bus, but otherwise you’re riding your bike.  With so many people riding their bike, they also have an Eco Pass, we want to provide a way for them to get their bike to the bus stop, if the bike rack on the bus is full, we need them to have a place to lock up their bike so they can still take their transit trip.  </font> <br></p> <p><font size="3" face="Times New Roman"><i>Lynn Guissinger:</i>  [05:13] Boulder is a great place to raise a family and one of the main reasons is that transportation is so easy.  The kids start riding bikes to school at a very young age and then start taking the bus around town.  I think it’s very different from growing up in many places where you have to wait for someone to come home and take you to your friend’s house, or take you down to the mall for something to do.  And it means that the kids have a sense of freedom growing up and they learn to ride the buses and use them.  </font> <br></p> <p><font size="3" face="Times New Roman">[music]</font> <br></p> <p><font size="3" face="Times New Roman"><i>Cris Jones:</i>  [05:48] The lesson that other transit agencies and transit planners can learn from what we’ve done here in Boulder is don’t make assumptions about your customers.  The best thing to do is ask them what they want and give it to them.  On our peak months we’ve carried over 24,000 passengers per day.  Compared to a similar sized city, Longmont down the road, their local bus system carries under a thousand passengers per day on their entire local transit system.  So it’s been a great success.   </font> <br></p> Transcription Sponsored by: <a href="http://transcriptdivas.ca/">Transcript Divas Transcription Services </a>
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  • http://www.galfromdownunder.com/bio Galfromdownunder

    I've yet to take a bus, mostly because I ride a folding bike, but partly 'cos I can't work out where they go and when in a hurry!

    I'd base it completely on the famous and fabulous New Yorkistan cover:
    at least people will instantly know where the bus goes.

    A very poor, distant second idea would be to name them where they mainly go ...

    The Skirt - goes to the Garment district
    The Dumpling - goes to Chinatown
    The Canoli - goes to Little Italy
    The Wall - goes to the Financial District
    The Stage - goes to the Theater District
    The Duke - goes to Harlem
    The Yorkie - upper East Side
    The Crawl - Meatpack
    The Sprog - Park Slope
    And there's gotta be a good one for Chelsea

    ... but more than names, I'd really like to see the main stops written on the side of each bus. Like the subway map do.

  • Bob Whitson

    Great video--keep up the good work

  • http://spryeye.blogspot.com Evan Ravitz

    This is false history! Facts from a 30-year resident, voted "Best Activist" by readers of the Boulder Daily Camera: In 1994, voters defeated 2-1 the $250 million Transit Tax, partly BECAUSE they were going to just put more buses on the slow, twisty "spaghetti" bus routes that were running nearly empty. We who defeated it told them to straighten out their routes into a grid pattern. We FORCED them, they DID NOT ASK US! I don't think we named them either. Everyone I know would prefer names like "Broadway Bus" to "Skip" because it runs mostly on Broadway. Etc. People don't ride buses because of the silly names and cool logos, but to get places.

    Boulder is rife with lying, cheating greenwashers. The director of the Trans. Div. then, Phil Weisbach, repeatedly told City Council and others that there was nothing for cyclists in the tax because "Cyclists won't ride more than a mile or two at most." When i showed him that his own reports -done with our money- showed that the AVERAGE bike trip was 1.8 miles and the average bike commute ride was 3.6 miles said "We will continue to assert our opinion" and they did.

    Weiser was given a raise for telling his repeated lies. I kept exposing his lies publicly until he left, but his underlings carry on. God damn them for parasitizing our town and planet! -Evan Ravitz evan at vote dot org

  • Cousin Will

    This a is a great film! My cousin sent me this film and she loves taking the bus there.

    I am going to Boulder in 2009 and want to ride all of the buses!

    I saw your movie on Treehugger. There are lots of nice comments over there...


  • http://www.evinem.blogspot.com Evan

    Evan, I'm glad to hear of the grid system improvements, congrats on the award and thank you for your action. I'm not a long time resident of boulder(2.5years), so on the Surface, Evan's comments on lying and so forth don't seem to really help current or future situations.

    In modern times, encouraging people to vote NO on anything supporting public transportation may likely be counter progressive and should not be encouraged by somebody in favor of public transportation, and/or enabling people to be out of cars/changing self inflicting Merican habbits.

    I think this video is very good press for the rest of the US to be exposed to. For the future of the US empire, I believe the whole country NEEDS to consider the collective importance of geting Mericans to less frequently use Single Occupancy Passenger Automobiles (SOPA's). The time is NOW, while nation-wide attention(gasoline prices) has finally made a crack in the hard shells of many previously unexposed minds this year. Funding will very soon be allocated on behalf of transportation issues (including CO ammendment 52 I-70 ski traffic/congestion), and all options need to be adequately represented and considered. Since Ammend 52 focuses on building more roads, with no mention of public transport for ski traffic, I will vote no on it. I'll rant on this in another comment.

  • http://www.evinem.blogspot.com Evan

    "Ammendment 52: require the state legislature to spend a portion of state severance tax collections on highway projects."

    "The remaining amount of the state portion must be used to construct and maintain highways, with priority given to relieving congestion on Interstate-70 (I-70)"

    -2008 State Ballot Information Booklet, p21-22

    I am a skiier, though I ski in the Backcountry and always carpool, I often travel I-70 on congested winter weekends. I also travel the same routes after big resorts close, and the difference is significant. I conclude that the root problem of congestion on I-70 is due to recreational traffic from Denver and is at its worst on weekends during the normal ski season.

    By now this is a well known issue to ski vacationers traveling by plane from other states, just watch this youtube video, specifically documenting the differences in the logistics of skiing from Denver vs skiing from Salt Lake City airports. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=utwX5zOtMoI Last March I drove a car from Salt Lake City up both cottonwood canyons to ski, and had no noteable congestion issues. Colorado Ski resorts simply must be losing business due to this problem. The state generally is missing potential revenue from the informed/not returning tourists.

    What can be done to remody the I-70 problem, analysis:

    Step 1, identify the differences between Denver and Salt Lake City infrastructure

    1 Salt lake city's ski roads are one-lane highways, not generally serving inter or trans state traffic demands.

    2 Salt Lake City facilitates public transportation from its airport to the major ski resorts

    Step 2, decide which, if any, factors are most easily addressed or changed.

    I'd weigh in that it would be easier and economically more sustainable to invest in peak flow public transportation, and that diverting interstate traffic is an engineering feat that is less feasible. How far do you want to drill a tunnel under the continental divide.

    Simply building more road is an expensive and temporary solution to the I-70 congestion problem. There are many human issues which should be addressed first. If one wants to dispute the importance of the human factor, just look at the difference on-ramp traffic lights have made in I-70 traffic flow this year! Great stuff!

    I acknowledg that there are problems with facilitating public transportation here, but I have some ideas(limited access lane(s)) to account for some of the difficulties with funding, etc. Nowhere in the description of ammendment 52 is there any mention public transportation anywhere along I-70. Am I missing something?

    Until I hear otherwise, I'm voting no on 52.

  • David Jay Anderson

    Evan Ravitz, Boulder residents, Americans, please help. You are so far advanced, thought provoking, innovative, and successful that maybe you could help others also? My goal is to help our public transit, save taxpayer money, and need help desperately. Go to qcmetrolink.com, see the spagetti routes, limited information, route names, etc. The rest of the picture is similar to yours. Yet your town is working on solutions, thinking, creating, and people are talking. Very impressive. Thank you for all you are doing. What is the proper venue to work together? Please, help if you are able and willing.

  • David Jay Anderson

    Please note, we wrap buses with the windows covered (there is a picture online somewhere to prove it). It is illegal, according to the police, makes it tough to see outside or inside, makes passengers uneasy, makes bus drivers jobs tougher (we asked for just the front passenger window to be clear, NO!, yet a serious safety issue) and this is just one example to inspire help from you, anyone, any anything. Please forgive the intrusion onto your blog, just trying for a national movement, the more the merrier? Just think of how much good could be done. Thank you again.

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