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Durango Transit riders voice near-peak satisfaction

77% of those surveyed say they don’t have personal vehicles, need public transportation
Rider satisfaction with Durango Transit ranked 8.28 out of 10, one of the highest scores the transportation department has received since it started its annual ridership survey in 2015. This year, Durango Transit partnered with Fort Lewis College professor Kaitlin Mattos’s new Sustainability By Design class to administer the ridership survey. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald file)

In 2023, Durango Transit riders are happier with bus services than they’ve been for years, according to the transportation department’s latest annual ridership survey.

Durango Transit partnered with Fort Lewis College professor Kaitlin Mattos’ new Sustainability By Design class to administer the ridership survey, analyze the data and present the findings to Durango City Council on Tuesday.

The survey results were largely positive. FLC student Kaya Krantz, who presented survey findings to City Council with her classmate John Johanntoberns, said riders gave a collective satisfaction rating of 8.28 out of 10, an increase in satisfaction over the past two years and one of the highest ratings the city has ever received since the annual survey started in 2015.

Johanntoberns said 77% of respondents don’t have access to a personal vehicle and rely on Durango Transit as their primary mode of transportation. A majority of respondents also earn under $50,000 a year and the largest age group of riders is 25 to 40 years old. Most riders work in service jobs at bars, restaurants and hotels. Unemployed people and college students are the next largest rider groups.

Top positive survey responses noted convenience, reliability and nice drivers as Durango Transit’s best qualities. Negative comments said service hours are limited, buses are not clean or timely and drivers are mean.

“Something of note that the class noticed as we were analyzing the data – some of the top negative comments tend to be more subjective, such as mean drivers and the buses not being clean,” Krantz said. “So that could just be a result of catching people on an off day and might not fully represent how they always feel about the transit system.”

She said positive comments correlate strongly with past transit surveys, which inform Durango Transit what services may be lacking and what riders want for improved service.

Durango Transit notably took steps to address lacking service hours in October with the introduction of DuranGO Microtransit, an on-demand ride service that operates from 8 p.m. to midnight every day of the week.

In a separate but related presentation, Durango transportation director Sarah Hill said as of Tuesday, about two and a half weeks since DuranGO launched on Oct. 18, the city has given about 320 rides with an average wait time for riders of just six minutes.

“We haven’t had to deny a ride yet. We’re seeing a lot of work commuters using it to get home. And then obviously, our busier nights are Friday and Saturday night. We’re seeing a lot of larger groups that we’ve been able to accommodate to go downtown,” she said.

City Council member Dave Woodruff, who works at 11th Street Station and has a long history in the food and beverage industry, said the reactions from people upon learning of the new on-demand, curb-to-curb service were that it seems too good to be true.

“To make it (easy to) use for anybody. And what an asset for our community for all – from public safety to cheap rides to be able to get home safely, (it’s) paramount,” he said.

The transportation department also expanded its routes to serve U.S. Highway 160 west, which 17% of new riders use according to survey results, Krantz said.

Johanntoberns said 23% of respondents said they have access to personal vehicles, but they still take the bus – an indication people are using public transit to live more sustainable, environmentally conscious lives.

“By taking the transit system, this helps reduce their own carbon emission footprint,” he said. “This helps decongest the roads, along with helping them save money by not having to buy gas. Whether or not the riders are choosing to take the transit out of necessity or choice, the transit system helps make Durango a more sustainable city.”

Mattos’s Sustainability By Design course is the first-ever course of its kind to be taught at FLC, Krantz said. Coursework is about “incorporating sustainability into communities by redesigning products and infrastructure to make them more environmentally friendly.”

“Beyond covering topics such as waste management, food systems and economic structures, one of the main topics that we covered this semester was transportation. And we specifically looked at public transportation and how it can make a city more sustainable,” she said.


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