Bustang Outrider’s round-trip bus service from Durango to Grand Junction has resumed with COVID-19 prevention measures.
To ensure social distancing, capacity has been reduced by 50%, or 16 maximum passengers, said interim director Jay Rhodes.
“People are grateful the service is back, a lot of the community depends on it,” he said.
Passengers and the driver are required to wear a facial covering. Guests will be subject to contactless temperature checks. Anyone exhibiting symptoms cannot board.
Hand sanitizer is provided, and masks are available for passengers. Drivers must clear a COVID-19 symptom screening before their shifts and regularly wipe down the bus throughout their route. When available, each bus will have a “security driver door.”
Selected seats will be physically blocked to ensure proper social distancing. Family members can sit together.
Between shifts, the Bustang coaches go through an enhanced sanitation process, Rhodes said.
“They are thoroughly disinfected and steam-cleaned. Then an ultraviolet light is turned on for a while,” he said.
Bustang was required to submit COVID-19 prevention protocols to the governor’s office and was approved to resume service June 28, Rhodes said. Long-distance bus service had been ordered shut down March 30 because of the pandemic in alignment with Gov. Jared Polis’ previous statewide Stay at Home order.
Rhodes said ridership on the round-trip route from Durango to Grand Junction has been down since the pandemic hit. Normally, the service sees 25 to 38 passengers per day, but now passenger use is down by half.
Fixed Roadrunner routes in Durango, Bayfield and Ignacio have experienced a 50% decrease in ridership, although the Ignacio service is beginning to rebound. Roadrunner also began offering routes to Mercy Regional Medical Center.
The Bustang Outrider kept its six staff members throughout the period of suspended service, Rhodes said. It received payroll protection financial assistance, including $176,000 through the CARES Act, for driver salaries and COVID-related prevention materials.
Bustang Outrider is managed by the Colorado Department of Transportation.
“We have carefully monitored when to safely resume serving our Bustang and Outrider customers and are doing so now, with significant precautions in place that follow guidance and best practices from public health officials,” said Colorado Department of Transportation Executive Director Shoshana Lew. “We ask passengers to purchase tickets in advance, to the extent possible, so that we can minimize physical interactions with drivers and maximize social distancing.”
The Bustang Outrider service from Durango to Grand Junction operates two Vanhool CX35 coaches equipped with 350-horsepower Cummins diesel engines. They were purchased new in 2017 and 2019 and cost an estimated $470,000 each.
At 35 feet long, the Vanhool coaches allow for improved handling on curvy mountain roads, Rhodes said. They are equipped with bathrooms and Wi-Fi and have automatic drop-down chains for snowy roads.
The daily round-trip service leaves Durango at 6:40 a.m. and arrives in Grand Junction at 12:23 p.m. On the return, it leaves Grand Junction at 1:25 p.m. and arrives in Durango at 7:10 p.m.
The route has stops in local towns, including Mancos, Cortez, Dolores, Rico, Telluride, Placerville, Ridgway, Montrose and Delta.
Tickets for the whole route or between towns can be purchased online or in cash when boarding. For information, fares and tickets, go to ridebustang.com