By Eric Heinz
After the success of a free rideshare pilot program that began in the Montbello neighborhood, the city has brought the service to the Globeville, Elyria, and Swansea communities.
The Denver Connector Microtransit Program debuted in Montbello in 2021 and was recently expanded to the G.E.S. areas. City council approved funding of $3.1 million in total from Denver’s climate protection fund to operate the entire program through 2024.
People can order a ride through the app, Denver Connector, or by calling 720-868- 0560. Riders can request where to be taken within a coverage area across the neighborhoods, with services provided in both English and Spanish.
The connector in the G.E.S. areas currently runs from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday. Denver-based Northeast Transportation Connection (NETC) is operating the program with drivers contracted from the on-demand ride service Downtowner.
Eric Herbst, the assistant director of NETC, said there are currently four drivers with three on call during operations.
“We’re really seeing mobility as a resource for the community, and we’re trying to just bring in more options to help the mobility in the neighborhood,” Herbst said. “We know that there are trips that need to be made on the weekends as well, and people that maybe work on the weekends. This service really tries to give people another option when it is the most congested out there. So Monday through Friday made sense to us.”
Herbst said for the Montbello pilot connector, NETC hoped to serve 75 to 100 passengers per day, but it is already exceeding 250 and sometimes over 300 passengers.
“One of the differences between like Lyft and Uber, they’re really kind of a private ride, unless you pick (a shared option),” Herbst said. “This really optimizes to try to make it as efficient as possible. So if there’s another ride in route, it’s going to pick up other people.”
According to materials from the city of Denver, wait times are expected to be about 30 minutes. The service areas include a stop at both the Walmart and the King Soopers off of East 60th Avenue in Commerce City, as well as the Save A Lot at Federal Boulevard and I-70 in the Chaffee Park neighborhood.
“I’m excited that it will make the community kind of more mobile and another solution to getting across these barriers like the train tracks, the river, I-25, I-70,” Herbst said. “It’ll help get people to and from services where we often hear it’s too hard to get all the way across from Globeville to Swansea or vice versa.” More information on NETC and its programs can be found at netransportation.org.