City takes top honors at transit conference

Durango’s multimodal chief earns Transit Employee of the Year award

Increased ridership, commuter incentives and a new multimodal plan all propelled Durango’s transit system to top honors this week at the fall conference of the Colorado Association of Transit Agencies in Grand Junction.

Durango earned the Medium Transit System of the Year award, which goes to systems with 10 to 25 buses. The city’s multimodal administrator, Amber Blake, also was honored as the Transit Employee of the Year.

Accolades were based on consistent increases in ridership, which jumped by 19 percent between 2010 and 2011. There were 490,582 riders in 2010 compared with 582,048 riders in 2011. For the year to date, ridership is up 11 percent, or 41,371 more riders.

Officials use events such as Clean Commute Week to attract riders as well as incentives to make it easier to commute.

The city, for example, has an annual contract with Associated Students of Fort Lewis College that allows all students to ride Durango Transit for free if they get a validated sticker from the student union.

Employees of Mercy Regional Medical Center get an annual pass as part of a city contract with Mercy. Durango also is in conversation with Mercury Payment Systems about a similar partnership, Blake said.

Kent Harris is the transit operations manager for the city of Durango.

Blake was recognized for completing a new multimodal transportation master plan, which was adopted by the City Council in July, and for her management skills and success in getting state and federal grant funding. In her 3˝-year tenure, Durango has received nearly $5.2 million in grants.

A native of Telluride, Blake received a bachelor’s degree in political science from Villanova University and a master’s in geography and community and environmental planning from the University of Montana.

Blake also has worked as a transportation planner for Missoula County in Montana. She was a bicycle and pedestrian planner and a geographic information systems specialist for the Baltimore Metropolitan Council before moving to Durango.

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