Mountain Metropolitan Transit and the City of Colorado Springs received approximately $2 million more in federal transit dollars this fiscal year than the prior year, allowing them to allocate more funds to operate or improve public transport in the region.
Together, the transit agency and the city received about $10.6 million in federal funding this year, with about $740,000 more allocated to the Pikes Peak Regional Transportation Authority, said Craig Blewitt, director of Mountain Metro Transit. The funds are part of $181.5 million earmarked for public transit in Colorado, the senses said. Michael Bennett and John Hickenlooper in a joint statement last week. The money is immediately available to all three entities, Blewitt said.
Each year, Colorado Springs and Mountain Metro Transit receive federal funding and the total of approximately $11.4 million the region receives was determined by the Federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, also known under the name of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill, Blewitt said. The bill provides $89.9 billion in guaranteed funding for public transit across the country over the next five years.
“The funding will enable Colorado Transit Authorities to modernize and expand services to residents in their communities by purchasing new buses and railcars, resolving repair backlogs, transitioning to new technologies to address the climate crisis and improving transit service for communities that have historically had more limited access to transit,” Bennet and Hickenlooper said.
Mountain Metro has not yet determined how it will specifically use the additional $2 million in funding, Blewitt said, but it can help absorb increased business costs such as materials and contracted services, and generally improve the public transport service.
“Our regional transit plan calls for improving our current services and expanding transit service to other areas of the community,” he said. “Additional service could include the capital cost of purchasing additional buses and ongoing operating and maintenance costs.”
He said that eventually includes helping fund a new downtown transit hub that could be built on Nevada and Pikes Peak avenues on a parking lot owned by Norwood Development Group, a major local developer who will be a partner in the project, The Gazette previously reported.
The money could also help Mountain Metro fill the gap in its ongoing driver shortage, Blewitt said. The agency lacks about fifteen drivers, but has eight drivers in training to further reduce the gap.
Since October, the agency has restored all of its bus lines – it first closed seven lines in the fall due to driver shortages – but some ‘still don’t operate on full schedules’ as the shortage persists , did he declare.
Other transit programs across the Front Range also receive money from the bill, including about $6.4 million for the Fort Collins transit program, Transfort, and nearly $114 million from dollars for the Metro Denver Regional Transportation District, Bennet and Hickenlooper said.
Transfort plans to use increased federal funding for new technology and other capital management, said Drew Brooks, director of Fort Collins transportation and parking services.
Transfort will also use the money to replace old buses and obsolete equipment “with more durable and efficient equipment and assets”, he said.
The Metro Denver Regional Transportation District also didn’t say how it would use its additional federal transit funds, but said the money “is a key part of [the district’s] annual budget,” agency spokesman Brandon Figliolino said.