In a bid to combat air pollution, city of Loveland Transit is offering free bus rides during the month of August.
As of Monday, fares are being waived for riders on all COLT routes as part of “Zero Fare for Better Air,” a statewide campaign to reduce ground-level ozone pollution.
“We are participating in an effort to reduce carbon emissions,” COLT Manager Candice Folkers said. “It’s been an issue, and it’s an initiative taken up by the state.”
A total of 30 transit agencies across Colorado are participating in the month-long free-fare program, including Fort Collins, Estes Park and Denver’s Regional Transportation District.
The free-fare program was created by the state of Colorado’s Energy Office in June, after the legislature passed Senate Bill 22-180 authorizing $28 million in grants to increase ridership on public transportation during “ozone season.”
During this period, which is June, July and August in Colorado, ground-level ozone pollution created by gas-powered vehicles is typically at its highest concentrations, according to the state health department.
The “Zero Fare for Better Air” campaign is aimed at getting those vehicles off the streets, and their drivers onto buses.
Although the free COLT rides have only been in effect for a few days, Foulkers said it seems to be working, at least in terms of local ridership.
“Just asking the opinion of the operators, yes, it seems like people are taking advantage,” she said.
Whether that means drivers are keeping their cars at home or more pedestrians are hopping on remains to be seen, but ridership has been trending up generally, Foulkers said. Although not quite back to pre-pandemic levels, locals are finding their way back to the COLT system.
“We’re only down about 10%,” she said. “It’s been slowly increasing.”
She is anticipating another boost in ridership when COLT service expands later this month. Starting Aug. 15, new daily bus service in the northwest part of the city is slated to launch, and Routes 3 and 5 will be getting additional stops.
“We’re gearing up for it,” she said. “We are getting new bus stop signs put out, and doing operator training.”
The new Route 6 will have stops on 37th and 57th streets, as well as Taft, Monroe and Madison Avenues, within walking distance of major retail centers and McKee Medical Center.
Route 5 will add stops near the Boys & Girls Clubs on East First Street, Loveland Sports Park and Mountain View High School, while Route 3 will be adjusted to extend service to the new Veterans Administration clinic.
“I think a lot of our regulars will hop on it right away to see where it goes, and how it connects with the other routes,” she said. “And I think some new passengers will slowly start trickling in when they see it going by.”
All COLT rides, even on the new Route 6, will remain fare free through Aug. 31. For more information about COLT and the upcoming changes, visit lovgov.org/services/public-works/bus-service.