Prairie Express riders are now enjoying new wheels. Sterling’s fixed route bus service recently added two new vehicles to its fleet.
“We’re always looking for ways to keep our equipment up to date and the vehicles we have now are old and have lots of miles on them,” said Dr. Stephen L. Hoemke, director of transportation for northeast Colorado. Association of Local Governments, which operates Prairie Express.
NECALG was able to work with the Colorado Department of Transportation to secure a grant to fund 80% of the cost of purchasing the new vehicles and the remaining 20% was paid for through taxpayer funds received by the South Platte Valley Regional Transportation Authority. Each bus costs approximately $ 74,000.
According to Hoemke, they typically get new buses every four to five years. With these purchased buses, they are now starting to save money for the next group of buses that will soon be replaced.
The two new buses can accommodate 12 people, with additional space for wheelchair users, and feature a new color theme and logo on the outside. Each bus is fully air conditioned and includes a nice heating system for the winter. There are also cameras for security purposes and drivers can announce stops via a public address system.
“We want runners to be as comfortable as possible and to make it as convenient as possible,” Hoemke said.
This includes making sure that the locations of the bus stops are in the right places. Once work on the S-curve project is complete, Hoemke said the bus line will soon re-evaluate its stops and update them to better meet passenger needs. This means that some stops that are not used a lot may disappear, while others will be added in high traffic areas.
Current stops include: Sterling Regional MedCenter, Gandee’s Auto, Family Food Mart, Logan County Courthouse Square, H&R Tire, ATC, Vandenbark Realty, Sears, Sterling Apartments, Brigadoon Village, Fifth Street and Broadway, Sterling Public Library, Barb’s Gifts, Walker Pharmacy, Eagle 1 Gas Stop, Walmart and Dollar Tree.
NECALG is a non-profit organization; he doesn’t run buses to make money but just to help the public, Hoemke said. The nonprofit operates both Prairie Express and County Express, which provide on-demand service to Logan, Morgan, Phillips, Sedgwick, Washington and Yuma counties with trips to Northern Front Range destinations like Denver. , Fort Collins and Greeley for medical reasons. . Hoemke said there are around 50 buses currently operating in the six counties.
NECALG will also be in charge of the new Bustang Outrider service to Sterling, Greeley and Denver when it starts operating, possibly on September 1.
Currently, an executive order signed by President Joe Biden, which will remain in effect until September 13, requires masks to be worn on all public transport, including buses, whether or not you have been vaccinated. to help fight COVID-19. Drivers are now allowed to remove their masks while waiting outside at bus stops, but they must put it on when entering the vehicle.
“Our traffic is steadily increasing. We are not yet back to pre-COVID numbers, we are about 60% of what we were before COVID, but I hope we can pick up a lot of passengers, especially with the new buses and stops, ”he said. Hoemke said.
Prairie Express buses run Monday through Saturday and fares are $ 1 for the general public; 50 cents for people aged 65 and over as well as people with disabilities and $ 1 for deviations. All fares are valid one way. They also offer an unlimited monthly pass for $ 20 and a punch card offering 10 rides for $ 10.
For questions, to purchase passes, or to request a route deviation, call 970-522-6440.
All County Express trips must be scheduled before 3:30 p.m. Fares are $ 3 for the general public (up to three stops or 20 minutes if pre-arranged with the dispatcher). Passes for those aged 60 and over are available from the Area Agency on Aging.
To plan a trip through Sterling’s office, call 970-522-6440.
You will also find more information on the two services at, www.necalg.org.