Mountain Metropolitan Transit and the city of Colorado Springs received about $2 million more in federal transit dollars this fiscal year than last, allowing them to allocate more funding to operate or improve public transportation across the region.
Combined, both the transit agency and the city received about $10.6 million in federal funding this year, with about $740,000 more allocated to the Pikes Peak Regional Transportation Authority, Mountain Metro Transit Director Craig Blewitt said. The funds are part of $181.5 million earmarked for public transit across Colorado, Sens. Michael Bennet and John Hickenlooper announced in a joint statement last week. The money is immediately available to all three entities, Blewitt said.
Each year, Colorado Springs and Mountain Metro Transit receive federal funding and the approximately $11.4 million total the area is receiving was determined by the federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, also known as the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill, Blewitt said. The bill provides $89.9 billion in guaranteed public transportation funding across the country over the next five years.
"The funding will enable Colorado transit authorities to modernize and expand services for residents in their communities by buying new buses and railcars, addressing repair backlogs, transitioning to new technologies to address the climate crisis and improving transit service for communities that have historically had more limited access to transit," Bennet and Hickenlooper said.
Mountain Metro hasn't determined yet how it will specifically use the additional $2 million in funding, Blewitt said, but it can help absorb increased business costs such as materials and contracting services, and to generally improve mass transit service.
"Our Regional Transit Plan calls for the improvement of both our current services and the expansion of transit service to additional areas of the community," he said. "Additional service could include the capital cost of buying additional buses and ongoing operations and maintenance costs."
He said that includes possibly helping fund a new Downtown Transit Center that could be built at Nevada and Pikes Peak avenues on a parking lot owned by Norwood Development Group, a major local developer who will be a partner in the project, The Gazette previously reported.
The money could also help Mountain Metro close the gap in its continuing driver shortage, Blewitt said. The agency is short about 15 drivers, but has eight drivers in training to further reduce the gap.
Since October, the agency has restored all its bus routes — it first shuttered seven routes in the fall due to the driver shortage — but some are "still not operating full schedules" as the shortage persists, he said.
Other mass transit programs across the Front Range are also receiving money from the bill, including about $6.4 million going to Fort Collins' public transit program, Transfort, and nearly $114 million for Metro Denver's Regional Transportation District, Bennet and Hickenlooper said.
Transfort plans to use the increase in federal funding for new technology and other capital asset management, said Drew Brooks, Fort Collins' Transfort and parking services director.
Transfort will also use the money to replace old buses and outdated equipment "with more sustainable, efficient equipment and assets," he said.
Metro Denver's Regional Transportation District also didn't say specifically how it would use its additional federal transit funds, but said the money "is a key portion of [the district's] annual budget," agency spokesman Brandon Figliolino said.