CU Anschutz Medical Campus bus shuttle a transit success

The new CU Anschutz Medical Campus Rail Shuttle buses are filling up and proving to be a convenient way for riders of RTD’s just-launched R Line to get from Fitzsimons station to destinations across campus.

First shuttle bus rider CU Anschutz
Bob Kieronski, center, was the first rider to arrive at the R Line’s Fitzsimons station on Feb. 24. He is pictured along with shuttle bus drivers Felix Niyongabo, left, and Joseph Jackson, right.

The R Line opened on Feb. 24, ferrying passengers to campus from across the Denver metro area as well as the airport. The first rider to emerge at the Fitzsimons station, Bob Kieronski, came to campus to enjoy lunch with his wife, Norma Contreras, an interpretation coordinator at the University of Colorado Hospital (UCH). That same day, the free campus shuttle buses began running.

Since then, about 100 folks a day – and growing – have hopped aboard the campus shuttle buses. Besides being a convenient way to reach the RTD rail, many people are finding the shuttle buses to be an easy way to get from one side of campus to another, according to David Turnquist, associate vice chancellor of Facilities Management, and Kerrie Bathje, assistant director, Business Services.

‘It’s going well’

“I think it’s going well; the feedback we’ve received has been positive,” Bathje said of the shuttle. “The first week, a lot of people were doing trial runs just to see how it works.”

The shuttle is free and available to all students, employees, patients and visitors to the CU Anschutz Medical Campus. CU Anschutz purchased the fleet of four buses, each equipped with Wi-Fi, through a $1.5 million grant from the Federal Highway Administration. Key partners on the system are UCH, Children’s Hospital Colorado (CHC) and the VA Medical Center.

On each three-mile loop around campus (see map below), the buses make five stops at central locations – near the university Education and Research buildings, the VA Medical Center, UCH, CHC and the Anschutz Health and Wellness Center. One bus completes the entire route in about 15 minutes, a little longer during peak traffic hours.

Shuttle route at CU Anschutz
This is the three-mile route traveled by the free CU Anschutz Medical Campus shuttle buses.

Two buses run the loop from 5:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday. However, during peak weekday hours – 6:30 a.m. to 9 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. – three buses circulate. On weekends, one bus runs every 15 minutes from 5:30 a.m. to 8 p.m.

University of Colorado A Line connection

The 10.5-mile R Line connects the Nine Mile Station in southeast Aurora with the University of Colorado A Line, which runs from Union Station downtown to Denver International Airport. The R Line also stops at the Colfax station just east of CU Anschutz Medical Campus, but the bus shuttle doesn’t serve that stop.

Campus Shuttle hours

The operating hours of the CU Anschutz Medical Campus Rail Shuttle are:

  • Monday–Friday, 5:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. with seven- to nine-minute frequency to each stop.
  • Saturday–Sunday/University Holidays 5:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. with 15-minute frequency to each stop.

Turnquist noted that the City of Aurora is in the process of extending a pedestrian walkway from the 21 Fitzsimons Apartments on North Ursula Street to the Fitzsimons station. The path should be completed within a year. “So, people can ride the train and then they can decide if they want to walk, ride a bike or get on the shuttle when they arrive at Fitzsimons station,” he said. In long-range plans, the pedestrian walkway will be converted into a road that will allow the shuttle to travel directly north along Ursula to the Fitzsimons platform.

Reduces congestion, parking hassles

For now, the R Line and the bus shuttle offer important alternative transportation to and from a campus whose roads were never designed to handle the 55,000 people traveling there daily, including patients. The CU Anschutz Medical Campus street grid was originally built for less than 6,000 people daily.

Turnquist said the campus has seen an average of 300 new parking permits issued each of the past five years. That amounts to 1,500 more vehicles needing to park over that span. The campus currently offers 6,000 parking spaces just for university students, faculty and staff; thousands more spaces are devoted to the hospitals on campus.

“You’re talking about an incredible amount of vehicles here,” Turnquist said. “It’s imperative that we offer ways to reduce the congestion and the parking difficulties on campus.”

Use the EcoPass

While the campus shuttle is free, riding the light rail is not. Employees may pay on a per-trip basis or sign up for the CU Anschutz RTD EcoPass program, which allows CU Anschutz employees unlimited rides on RTD for $25 per month. See if you are eligible for the program on the CU Anschutz EcoPass website. Students may ride anywhere on the RTD system using their RTD CollegePass.

An app that will enable passengers to track the shuttles’ current location and expected arrival times – including the inter-campus shuttle between CU Anschutz and CU Denver – is in development.

EcoPass advantages

The shuttle buses have a maximum capacity of carrying 216 people an hour. The buses also can accommodate folks with mobility devices.

The RTD EcoPass program is an employer-sponsored pass that provides employees unlimited rides on bus and rail. Turnquist said the EcoPass allows CU Anschutz Medical Campus employees to ride unlimited for $25 a month, compared to the $171 rate a non-EcoPass rider pays for a monthly regional/airport pass.

It all adds up to a less-hassle, less-cost – parking fees are also eliminated – way to get to and from campus.

“We’re hoping the EcoPass will make the RTD/shuttle option even more appealing,” Turnquist said. “You can get on the train, read the paper and then take a few minutes on the campus shuttle to your building on campus.”

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