Greeley-Evans Transit’s slogan is “Get There!” Recently, Greeley’s full-time residents and UNC students haven’t been going anywhere due to a history of unreliable bus times.
Permanent residents and students in Greeley have struggled with issues of reliability with the G.E.T. for years. From the Boomerang shuttle being cut to one bus, to permanent residents rearranging their schedule to help seniors get to doctor appointments on time, bus times are affecting groups of many ages and backgrounds.
The previous Greeley Deputy Public Works Director Will Jones told the Greeley Tribune in 2019, that there has to be more funding added to the budget before changes are made.
The Mobility and Operations Supervisor Leiton Powell currently oversees transit operations, which includes public transportation services, investigating accidents and conflicts. He reports that the federal Urbanized Area Funding program funding increases 3% each year, which allows the city to match with 3% each year.
According to the Federal Transit Administration website, the funding program provides funds for public transit in urbanized areas. An urbanized area is defined as a population of less than two hundred thousand residents. The census in 2022 estimates Greeley’s population at approximately 109,200 residents. Which means that the governor is responsible for receiving and allocating funds to eligible projects and recipients.
“We have not been able to provide the service that is matching the growth of the city,” Powell said.
In the fall semester of 2023, the University of Northern Colorado posted a sign next to the Boomerang bus stop telling students that G.E.T. is dealing with staffing shortages.
The sign details that the Boomerang shuttle, a bus designated for the UNC community, would be limited to a single shuttle starting Oct. 16 through the remainder of the fall semester.
“We just can’t compete with the wages or the benefits that oil and gas companies can provide. We can’t start people at $35 an hour,” Powell said.
G.E.T. has been in a long competition with oil and gas industries to get residents their Colorado CDL licenses, which would allow them to drive commercial vehicles in the state of Colorado. He mentions that other transportations like school districts and other agencies like RTD has always been a problem for G.E.T. hiring new drivers. Since Powell has started his position in 2016, wages for bus drivers have increased $7, but it’s not enough incentive to get drivers hired.
Hernesto Munoz-Aranda, a senior studying criminal justice with a minor in psychology at UNC, used to rely on the Boomerang to get him from Central campus to West campus.
“I’ve been late to a couple classes because of the shortages,” he said.
This has changed his day-to-day and started leaving his dorm earlier.
“It affected how I saw how to get to class, realizing that I had to walk or find another way of transportation to get me there faster,” Munoz-Aranda said.
He’s had to invest in an e-scooter to make it to class on time.
When it comes to reliability and bus frequency, students aren’t the only ones struggling. In previous years, residents in Greeley have repeatedly asked for a better system but to no avail.
“They’ve had meetings and hired consultants which is a waste because the community is their best consultant,” said Steve Teets, a Greeley resident.
He said that he believes that G.E.T. has to add more buses on the road, both for students and full-time residents.
Teets has been living in Greeley for 37 years and is the chairman of two committees. One is for people with disabilities in Weld County and the other is the Citizens Bus Inclusion committee. He is also involved in a city committee called the Greeley’s Citizen Transportation Advisory Board.
“The bus system when I first got here, went from bad to worse,” he said shaking his head. “We have a disgusting bus system, it’s the truth.”
He has been to countless city council meetings talking about the importance of a better and reliable transportation system, but believes the advocating hasn’t gone anywhere. Teets believes that the community who rides the bus needs to start reaching out to the Greeley City Council or no changes will happen.
Debra Kinzer is a Greeley resident struggling with the same problems, but in a different way.
She has taken on the responsibility of being her mother’s only way of transportation with being responsible for picking up and dropping off her groceries because of the buses unreliability.
“They tell us that there is transportation for seniors, but there isn’t,” she said. “There is no help for seniors.”
Kinzer talked about how much of an impact it has made on her life. Her mom who is turning 91 in February needs a lot of her time and attention, so Kinzer is always planning out her life out so that she’s available for her mother.
“If I get sick, we’re screwed,” she said chuckling.