City of Colorado Springs / Transit Service / Transit Links / Future of Regional Transit / Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions

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Steering Committee Meetings are open to the public
Steering Committee Meetings are open to the public.
The following questions are the most commonly asked about the Future of Regional Transit study.  Some of the questions below were answered by Craig Blewitt, transit manager for the City of Colorado Springs and by Ray Krueger, vice chairman of the Future of Regional Transit steering committee, during the Telephone Town Hall meeting on Dec. 8, 2010.

Additional questions will be added to the list as they are received and answered.

Transit Service

Q: Is Mountain Metropolitan Transit (MMT) the only public transportation provider in the region?

A: MMT is currently the only provider of fixed-route bus service in the Pikes Peak region. In addition to bus routes within the City of Colorado Springs, MMT provides service to Manitou Springs, the City of Fountain, and to parts of El Paso County. In addition, MMT offers Front Range Express (FREX) commuter bus service between Colorado Springs and Denver and Ute Pass Express commuter bus service to Woodland Park serving the communities along Highway 24.

MMT also offers "Metro Mobility," which provides Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) paratransit services to persons with disabilities who cannot use the fixed-route services. However, there are many private and non-profit organizations in the region besides MMT that offer door-to-door and even door-through-door service to the elderly and to citizens with disabilities.

 


 

Q:  What has happened to MMT services as a result of recent budget actions?

 

A: Over the past two years, the Colorado Springs City Council has significantly reduced the funding it allocates to MMT for transit operations. The general fund allocation has been reduced from $11.8 million in 2008 to $2.6 million in 2010. As a result, the amount of service MMT provides (as measured by "revenue hours," or the total amount of time MMT's buses are carrying passengers) has been cut approximately in half. This reduction has been achieved by shortening routes, reducing the frequency of service on some routes, eliminating all weekend service, and cutting evening service after 6:30 P.M.

 


 

Q:  How does transit service in the Pikes Peak region compare to service in other cities or regions in the United States?

 

A: As part of the Future of Regional Transit Study, the consultant team is conducting a comprehensive analysis to compare Mountain Metropolitan Transit (MMT) services to services in similar cities across the U.S. The results of this peer analysis will be posted on this website as they become available.

 


 

Transit Governance

Q:  Who decides what transit services (for example, what bus routes) MMT will offer?

 

A: Mountain Metropolitan Transit is the "brand name" of the Transit Division of the City of Colorado Springs. MMT has a Division Manager with a small dedicated support staff who oversee the transit system and the operations of the service contractor. The Manager and his staff make the day-to-day decisions about where and when to offer service and how to provide it most effectively. The Colorado Springs City Council provides strategic direction to the Transit Division regarding the overall level of transit service to be offered, to what parts of the Pikes Peak region transit will extend, and how the funding will be budgeted annually to provide and operate service.

 


 

Q:   What is the Pikes Peak Rural Transportation Authority (PPRTA)? How does it relate to MMT?

 

A: The Pikes Peak Rural Transportation Authority (PPRTA) was established in 2004 by the voters of unincorporated El Paso County, the Cities of Colorado Springs and Manitou Springs, and the Town of Green Mountain Falls. The citizens gave the PPRTA the authority to levy 1.0% sales and use tax to be used for transportation and transit improvements according to the following formula:

  • 0.55% for specific capital projects
  • 0.35% for roadway maintenance projects
  • 0.10% for transit improvements

PPRTA's tax revenues directly support the MMT bus service through the one-tenth of one percent sales tax dedicated for transit. However, due to restrictions, the PPRTA does not play an active role in the day-to-day operations of transit. MMT continues to oversee all the activities and operations of the transit and paratransit systems and rideshare programs, including the development and implementation of all short-and long-range transit plans.

 

Please see the PPRTA's website http://www.pikespeakrta.com/index.html for more information.

 


 

6.  How are MMT and PPRTA different from the Regional Transportation District (RTD) in Denver?

 

A: Most obviously, the Denver RTD operates a much larger and more extensive transit system than MMT. RTD has over 140 local, express, and regional bus routes, 35 miles of light rail (consisting of five light rail lines), and nearly 80 park-and-ride locations. RTD is currently pursuing an expansion of their transit system through the FasTracks initiative.

 

Another key difference is governance. The RTD was created in 1969 by the Colorado General Assembly and operates public transportation in an eight-county service area. Unlike MMT, which is a division of the City of Colorado Springs, the RTD is an independent entity. The RTD is governed by a 15-member Board of Directors, and the members are directly elected by the citizens of the region specifically to serve on the RTD Board. Directly elected transit boards like the RTD are actually relatively rare in the United States - most transit boards have members who are either appointed by local elected officials (such as mayors or county commissioners), or the local elected officials themselves serve on the board.

 

One similarity between the Denver region and the Pikes Peak region is the use of sales tax funding for transit. The RTD receives the proceeds of a dedicated 1.0% sales tax to support its existing operations and the FasTracks expansion program. This is similar to the 1.0% dedicated sales tax for PPRTA, although most of the PPRTA funding goes for roadway and infrastructure projects.

 


 

Q:  What governance alternatives are being considered as part of this study?

 

A: The steering committee for the Future of Regional Transit study will determine the final set of governance alternatives to be considered, and information on those alternatives will be posted on this website once the committee takes up that issue. It is expected that the committee will consider a very broad range of governance alternatives, including keeping transit within the City of Colorado Springs; making transit a County responsibility; expanding the PPRTA's role in operating and overseeing transit (rather than simply providing funding); and creating an entirely new regional entity to provide public transit.

 


 

Q:  How were the members of the study steering committee selected?

 

A: MMT, as the administrator of the Future of Regional Transit study, sent invitation letters to a wide range of community organizations, service agencies, and jurisdictions throughout the region based on input received during community outreach interviews. MMT offered the option for the groups to nominate a representative to serve on the steering committee if they desired to do so.

 


 

Transit Funding

Q:  How does MMT fund the transit services it provides?

 

A: For capital investments, such as the purchase of new buses, MMT relies heavily on grant funding from the Federal Transit Administration, a part of the U.S. Department of Transportation. Approximately 80% of MMT capital funds come from federal sources, with the remaining 20% coming from various local sources. For day-to-day operations and maintenance (O&M) expenses, passenger fares fund between 15-20% of O&M costs, and federal assistance covers another 15-20%. The remaining 60-70% of the O&M costs are now funded primarily by the 0.10% dedicated PPRTA sales tax, with additional support from the annual allocation of City general funds. 

 


 

Q:  How do other cities or regions in the U.S. pay for their transit service? Are these sources being considered in this study?

 

A: There is no single answer, as there are dozens of potential funding sources that cities and regions can and do use for transit. However, for most small and mid-sized regions (particularly if the transit agency is a department of the city or county), transit is supported by general fund revenues. These general fund revenues usually come primarily from property taxes and, in some places like Colorado Springs, from sales taxes.

 

For larger regions, particularly those with independent transit agencies that cover multiple jurisdictions, most (though not all) agencies have a dedicated tax or fee source of some kind. Sales taxes are the most popular source for dedicated transit funding, but there are many other potential sources, including property taxes, local option gas taxes, payroll taxes, income taxes, rental car fees, hotel/motel fees, automobile registration fees, real estate transaction fees, and many more.

 

The peer analysis (referenced in question 3 above) that is part of the Future of Regional Transit study will include an assessment of how these cities which are similar to Colorado Springs have chosen to pay for their transit service.

 


 

Q:  Could transit service in the region be "privatized?"

 

A: The private sector already plays a substantial role in the region's transit service. Rather than operate bus and paratransit services with City employees, MMT competitively contracts with private sector firms for the operation and maintenance of the buses. This helps ensure that the region's taxpayers are receiving cost-effective transit service.

 

Full privatization of the transit system - meaning operation with funding support only from passenger fares and other system-generated revenues (e.g., advertising) - is unlikely. Almost without exception, transit agencies throughout the U.S. and across the world require public support for both capital investment and for operations and maintenance. This situation seems unlikely to change soon unless there are major increases in the cost of automobile usage (for example, much higher gasoline prices or widespread road pricing), which would then encourage transit ridership and also provide an opportunity to charge higher transit fares.

 


Q: We have read about the possibility of resuming weekend bus service on a limited basis.  Which routes would likely be restored?  Would Academy Blvd be a likely route for renewed weekend service? I think it would be good to set up a citizens’ advisory panel with people who actually take the bus.  This would be a great benefit as you plan future routes, plus you would have immediate feedback from those who are actually using the service.

A: Thank you for your suggestion! We do have a citizen’s advisory panel (the Passenger Advisory Committee, also known as PAC), who brought the recommendation to City Council to include Saturday Service in 2011’s budget. Unfortunately, the specific routes to be included in the limited Saturday service have not been finalized as of yet.


Q: On a per passenger mile basis, public transit costs about 4 times that of driving a personal automobile. In addition, about 85 percent of the cost of public transit is subsidized by non-transit users. Rather than looking to increase taxes to pay for public transit, or increasing the subsidies paid to public transit, why aren't you looking at increasing the efficiency of public transit?

Public transit isn't sustainable in its present model.

An example is FREX. If you can't recover the full cost of running it with fares when the bulk of the users are going to jobs then its unlikely any public transit can be sustainable.  

A: Your question is appreciated. Public transportation is a community asset, similar to roads, bridges and parks, and will not pay for itself. Fare box recovery ratios (which is the percentage of the operations cost that is obtained via fare revenues) in similar-sized communities around the country are often within the 10-20% range. Mountain Metropolitan Transit’s local route fare box recovery ratio is currently at approximately 25%, an indication of a very efficient system. Express systems such as FREX typically have substantially higher returns – last year it was 47%.    


Q: Given that many disabled people lost Metro Mobility service due to cuts in 2008, it's time to redesign the qualification paradigm.  The Metro Mobility buses are designed with wheelchair lifts, yet some people in wheelchairs are denied service based solely on geography, while more able persons who could learn to use large city buses are provided door-to-door service.  Can we gather some members of the disabled community and those to provide services to them, to help design a qualification system with need as a priority?  

A: Thank you for your input. MMT provides paratransit services per the Federal Americans with Disabilities Act regulations. The Passenger Advisory Committee (or PAC) is a group that meets regularly to provide input to MMT and the City regarding various passenger concerns, including those of the disabled population.


Q: What has the Future of Regional Transit learned about possible future options for our region when looking at other communities?

A: The Future of Regional Transit Steering Committee has learned that there are many governance and funding options for the Pikes Peak region based on the review of other communities. There is information available on the website at www.FutureOfRegionalTransit.com which compares MMT to approximately two dozen peer systems on measures of service, ridership, cost, and funding, as well as providing information on other governance options. An update on the study will be presented to the Colorado Springs City Council, and the Steering Committee’s final recommendation will come in March/April. 


Q: Shame on the United States of America; a leader of the Free World.

The only country in the Western world without a legitimate transportation system. We are slaves to automobiles and oil. The  majority  of  Americans  have  no  idea  what  is "going on"  outside  of the U.S.A. Transportation systems in Europe can take you throughout the entire continent.  Europeans laugh at us for living with such antiquated, confined systems of transportation. How long in the future will we continue to live with just automobiles and airplanes for transportation? We need to introduce mass transportation for the widespread use of bus and rail systems in the United States.

A: Thank you for your input. That is exactly what we are doing with the funding that is available.


Q: 1. I sometimes find that the waiting time for buses can be up to 30 minutes, I find that I can walk to my destination before the bus even passes, even from the Citadel mall to downtown. What about decreasing the time between buses on certain routes?
2. I read that the light rail will be built out by the Springs Airport. What about connecting the Colorado Springs Airport to the Downtown area with light rail or monorail when they do build the light rail out there?

A: Routes that obtain lower ridership do run only once per hour, which allows the more often-utilized routes to run every half-hour. The routes, frequency, and ridership are all studied on a regular basis and adjustments are made dependent upon the needs of the community and the resources available.

In answer to your second question, the Future of Regional Transit study is focused on the governance and funding structures for transit’s future. The study does not address route-specific issues or particular modes of transportation.


Q: Of the routes that are currently in operation, how full are the buses or vans? What percentage of the overall cost does the user pay?

A: Current fixed-route ridership averages out to approximately 25 passengers per hour, which is about 75% capacity.  The fixed-route fare box revenues cover approximately 25% of the operating costs. 


Q: Is Personal Rapid Transit (PRT) being considered?  Is a fixed guideway system in the mix? Will the possible transit governance structure be modeled after Denver’s successful Regional Transportation District?

A: The Future of Regional Transit Steering Committee is looking at many options for the structure of the governance, including many successful models that currently exist in peer communities. Information about the Denver RTD is being considered by the Committee specifically because RTD operates under the same state legislative framework. No options have been eliminated entirely as of yet. While the study is evaluating the community’s desired levels of service, it is not identifying specific routes or modes of transportation.


Q: There's been a lot of discussion about the future of light rail, but what about the immediate need for increased service?

A: The Future of Regional Transit is addressing the long-term need for increased service. Mountain Metropolitan Transit is doing what can be done with the funding currently available, and will be bringing limited Saturday service to the local community beginning in spring 2011.


Q: If current buses are not profitable I assume it’s because there are lots of empty seats. Would you consider using smaller buses, or even vans, that would be cheap enough to operate to allow covering more routes and times?

A: Unfortunately the cost of running smaller vehicles does not equate to savings. The type of vehicle used (and the relevant difference in fuel consumption) for transit is a very small portion of the costs associated with providing transit service. Costs for drivers, maintenance per vehicle, and other considerations weigh more heavily. During peak hours, smaller buses do not meet our needs. Using the larger vehicles also offers more flexibility.


Q: I would like to see all city expenses shared by all in the city, not just property owners. I am a home owner, but have been out of work over 6 years.  How are you going to pay for it?

A: The Future of Regional Transit is exploring various types and combinations of revenue resources, including property tax, fees for vehicle registrations, and lodging taxes, etc., to create a more stable and reliable funding source.


Q: I am a native of eastern El Paso County and grew up where there was no public transportation. I relied on friends, family, and church for transportation and always got where I needed to go.  It may not have always been convenient for me, but nevertheless it worked just fine.  Why not build a sustainable model where transportation funding is provided by those who use it?  The “Future of Regional Transit” website states:

The general fund allocation has been reduced from $11.9 million in 2008 to $2.6 million in 2010

MMT provided 3.8 million one-way public transit trips in 2008, and is anticipated to provide 2.6 million one-way trips in 2010 with significantly reduced service.

It seems reasonable to me that MMT could just charge the people who use MMT $1.25 per one way ticket and generate $3.25 million in revenue.  Wouldn’t this be a sustainable option without sticking the taxpayer with the bill?

A: Public transportation is a community asset, similar to roads, bridges and parks. Transit is unique in that it does charge a fee to use the service in addition to the public funds. However, like many community assets, affordable, reliable, efficient public transportation requires community support.    


Q: I am concerned about, or hopeful about, getting service in the northeast near Dublin and Austin Bluffs.  I'm visually handicapped so I depend on that kind of thing (and) there's virtually no transportation here. Secondly, in light of the economy, is there anything citizens can do on a grassroots level to help a more comprehensive transit system become a reality?  For example, I'm currently unemployed and I'd be happy to volunteer time and that sort of thing. 

A: The Future of Regional Transit Study is assessing various structures of governance and funding. The study is not identifying specific routes or modes of transportation. However, the areas that are currently lacking in public transportation are being considered and the community’s desired level of service is being assessed.  It should be noted that a presentation during the second Future of Regional Transit Steering Committee meeting indicated that there is a strong need for public transportation service in your area.  More information, including that presentation, is available on the website at www.futureofregionaltransit.com. Your willingness to contribute is appreciated! There are several ways that you can take part in the planning and growth of your community. All of the Future of Regional Transit meetings are open to the public and you are encouraged to join us.  Just your response has been helpful by providing valuable input to the system.

 


Q: I work in Denver and pay a city tax to the city of Denver that comes out of my paycheck.  That's non-negotiable.  I've been paying that since I've been working there and I don't see any issue with that for either people within our city or outside our city to help for our transportation. I wanted to know what decision you were going to give to the council on whether to continue operation of FREX. Thank you.

 

A: Thank you for your input! The Future of Regional Transit Study is assessing various structures of governance and funding. The study is not identifying specific routes or modes of transportation.  However, the areas that are currently lacking in public transportation are being considered and the community’s desired level of service is being assessed.  Various different combinations of revenue sources are being explored, including a vehicle registration fee, a property tax, sales tax, lodgings fee, etc., in order to achieve a more stable and balanced overall source. City Council has approved continued operation of FREX service in 2011.  


Q: I was concerned about FREX, is it going to continue this year?  I'm blind and I commute from Monument to Evans Hospital on Fort Carson and I really need that bus to get me in to Colorado Springs if that's at all possible.  Can the paratransit service make an exception and take a guy to the hospital on Fort Carson instead of dropping me off just 3/4 of a mile from the gate and calling a cab from that point?  There are a lot of people that need to get to that hospital that have disabilities, older, retirees that need to get to the pharmacy or to the doctors.

 

A: Thank you for your input. The Future of Regional Transit Study is assessing various structures of governance and funding. The study is not identifying specific routes or modes of transportation. However, the areas that are currently lacking in public transportation are being considered and the community’s desired level of service is being assessed.  City Council has approved continued operation of FREX service in 2011.   


Q: How about the use of all taxes; sales tax, property tax, vehicle registration tax, payroll tax, or gas taxes the state approves.  Pulling from as many avenues would seem reasonable. This is very informative and I'm glad we have so many intelligent people working on this that are really interested in finding out how we can really maximize  the system.  We really, really should have a good transit system with such a huge area to cover in the west.

 

A: Thank you very much for your input and suggestions. The Future of Regional Transit is exploring various types and combinations of revenue resources, including property tax, fees for vehicle registrations, and lodging taxes, etc., in order to create a more stable and reliable funding source.


Q: I'm excited to see this study.  I'm wondering what the possibilities are of having a telephone town hall on a regular basis, say quarterly or every six months?   I think when you go out and you specifically target a population and randomly have 40,000 people participate in the show you get a lot of good, different opinions and feedback of what the people want.

 

A: There is the possibility of another Telephone Town Hall meeting further along in this study. This mode of outreach does appear to be very effective and positive. Thank you very much for your input regarding the value—while this particular forum was established for one specific project, MMT is evaluating the method for future use.


Q: I think one of the poll options you should have asked deals with the vehicle registration tax.  I'd certainly be open to it. It wasn't on the poll options and you might be surprised.  Maybe a lot of other people would have agreed, maybe not, but it was very informative. 

 

A: Thank you for your input! The Future of Regional Transit Study is exploring many options and combinations of options regarding funding, including  sales tax, property tax, vehicle registration fees, lodging tax, etc., in order to create a more stable and reliable funding source.