As I crossed the border into Canada during my roadtrip this summer, I was told that my passport had expired several months prior. The Canadians didn’t think it was a problem and let me enter, and the American border guards on the return trip didn’t even notice, so it somehow all worked out.
However I did need to get it renewed. The closest place for me to do so is in downtown Denver at the office of the Honorary Consul of the Federal Republic of Germany as I am (still) a German citizen.
Normally this would be a quick one-hour drive (possibly more in traffic), but with my right knee temporarily kind of out of commission due to some torn cartilage driving a car without being able to adjust the knee’s position for over an hour was a no-go.
Luckily for me, the State of Colorado’s Department of Transportation (CDOT) in 2015 funded a new project called Bustang wherein a fleet of comfortable buses rides up and down I-25 and along parts of I-70 for commuters.
So I decided to give that a shot, which was especially appealing since one of the stops in Denver was very close to my destination. I must say I’ve also tremendously enjoyed Jim Brophy’s series on buses here on CC, so I was pleased at the opportunity to give something back in that regard.
On the appointed day my wife gave me a ride to the stop nearest our house and right on time Bustang pulled in and I climbed aboard with two other people, paid my $10 fare and sat down for the ride.
Bustang consists of a fleet of MCI D4500 buses painted (or wrapped?) in a somewhat obnoxious (ok, distinctive) black and purple motif.
Manufactured in Pembina, North Dakota, the D4500 is the current designation for what was originally called the MCI 102DL3 in 1992 and renamed in 2001. It was the first 45-foot coach in service and is one of the more popular intercity coaches in the US.
My particular bus was built in October 2014 per the data plate that I snapped a picture of (maybe someone can decipher more info from it?) and while it didn’t exhibit new-bus smell, it thankfully didn’t emit old-bus stank either. It was extremely clean and comfortable.
The fleet consists of thirteen buses acquired at a total reported cost of just over $7million but CDOT claims that the goal is not to break even or turn a profit but just to try to keep some cars off the road. I suppose this is a realistic option for them since they are funded by taxpayers through a portion of vehicle license fees.
Each of the 51 seats on each bus is cloth covered, well-padded, comes with a seatbelt and fold-down foot rest as well as a USB port and a 110V outlet to recharge phones or other electronic devices. The bus provides free WiFi which worked flawlessly.
There are three routes in total: Denver/Fort Collins, Denver/Colorado Springs, and Denver/Glenwood Springs and you can obviously transfer from one to another in Denver which covers the majority of the population centers in Colorado.
Once we were aboard, the driver shut the door, exited the lot and proceeded to the freeway. We had one stop in Loveland just a few miles South where we picked up a few other riders which was still few enough so nobody had to share a bench with anyone else and soon enough we were on our way to Denver.
I wasn’t sure how the ride would be since I have not been on a bus journey of any significant length in some years, but I was pleasantly surprised. The engine, while not completely silent, was hardly intrusive and made very good power.
We had no problem keeping up with traffic that seemed to be moving at or above the 75-MPH speed limit and regularly pulled into the left lane to pass slower traffic. I would not have travelled any faster had I been driving my own car.
Once in Denver we pulled into the Denver Bus Terminal and those of us that wanted to exit there, did so. I disembarked and took some more photos of the bus while the driver watched me, no doubt wondering what I was up to.
After that I found a breakfast place nearby, took care of my business at the Honorary Consulate, and then hobbled with my bad knee to a different station a mile away for the mid-day return trip as for some reason that departure time did not include a stop at the Denver Bus Terminal.
The return trip was just as uneventful as the trip into town, the bus (an identical but different one) was just as clean and quiet and progress as just as swift.
I didn’t need it but there is even a lavatory on board as well as a bike rack attached to the front of the buses which actually could have been useful had I known about it earlier.
For one person, the round trip from Fort Collins to Denver and back cost me a total of $20. Driving any of my cars would have cost almost that much in gasoline, never mind the mileage and any parking charges.
Of course I did impose on my wife to drive me to and from my local station but could have driven myself there and parked for free. Or ridden my bicycle. By taking the bus I was able to relax and catch up on the latest articles on CurbsideClassic.com and leave the driving to someone else while sprawling out in comfort.
Given a similar set of circumstances (single rider, somewhat flexible schedule) I would absolutely ride the Bustang again. On the whole Bustang has been a success for CDOT, in its first year of operation ending in June of this year a total of 102,577 people had ridden on it, which exceeded expectation by about 15%.
Revenues were 57% higher than expected at $1,014,781 recorded in the first year which would seem to indicate that people are riding it for longer (more expensive) distances than anticipated. Overall CDOT had expected to cover about 30% of the bus system’s operations, however the revenues actually covered about 38% of first-year operations.
As a commuter it makes a lot of sense and if you, dear reader from far away, are coming into Denver via the airport you could now take the new light-rail service from the airport into town, then transfer to Bustang and get to the Northern or Southern cities and even into the mountains.
Will it be as painless as renting a car or getting someone to pick you up or paying for door-to-door service? Probably not but it’ll be an interesting experience and likely a lot better than the airplane trip itself. And who doesn’t love looking out the giant windows of a new bus? Go Bustang!