The Road Runner Transit is picking up the bus route between Durango and Grand Junction with service expected to begin in May.
The route previously was a segment of the Salt Lake City-Albuquerque route operated by Greyhound before the national bus chain dropped it in September 2011 because the route wasn’t profitable.
The Southern Ute Community Action Programs Inc., which operates Road Runner, received a $200,000 award from the Colorado Department of Transportation to restore the Durango-Grand Junction segment.
The award is expected to cover start-up and operating costs for the service, said John Valerio, a transit planner for CDOT.
“CDOT is very pleased the SUCAP decided to step up and operate this service,” Valerio said. “It’s a pretty big departure from what they’re doing right now. We hope it addresses a lot of the communities’ needs.”
The route will operate under the name Road Runner Stage Lines, and there will be one round trip seven days a week. The bus will leave in Durango around 6 a.m., arriving in Grand Junction by noon so riders can catch connections with Greyhound and Amtrak.
The bus will leave Grand Junction around 1:15 p.m. and get back to Durango around 7:15 p.m.
The route will go through Cortez, Dolores, Telluride, Ridgway, Montrose and Delta.
Transit officials hope the new departure times will be more conducive to those traveling to Grand Junction to catch a plane or a connecting bus and for those who travel for medical appointments.
The bus left Durango at 6 p.m. when the service was operated by Greyhound and wouldn’t get into to Grand Junction until 11:56 p.m.
“I think we will have greater ridership than the Greyhound did based on the hours (of operation),” said Clayton Richter, division director for SUCAP.
Richter said he thinks one-way tickets will cost about $45.
CDOT also awarded SUCAP $60,000 to pay for used buses, which they expect to acquire from the Denver Metro Transit System. The system is getting rid of 48 buses in April.
Each bus costs between $5,000 and $10,000. The funds also will cover the $5,000 to install bathrooms and the $5,000 to paint the buses, Valerio said.
SUCAP will have to apply for the funding each year to continue operating the service, but Valerio said CDOT typically continues to fund a program.