Lone Tree Link ridership increases with business growth

Wrapping up its second year, use of the service continues to rise

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More people are using the Lone Tree Link: In its second year, the transit system reported an increase in ridership of 30 percent since September 2015.

“The program has been successful,” said Lone Tree Economic Development Director Jeff Holwell.“It has attracted other riders as a result for people's enthusiasm for the program.”

The Lone Tree Link is a free city-run, last-mile shuttle service that takes employees and residents to and from the Lincoln Light Rail Station to six stops along Park Meadows Drive. There are typically four buses during operation hours that arrive at stops every 10 minutes. The program costs about $400,000 a year, Holwell said.

Linda Watson, director of marketing at Sky Ridge Medical Center, one of the most popular Link stops, said the last-mile service has been valuable for hospital employees.

The shuttles make it easy for employees who take the light rail and who enjoy public transit because it is economical, better for the environment and stress-free, she said.

"The drivers are friendly, warm and inviting," Watson said. "It is a lovely amenity for area businesses and residents."

The service's full loop connects employment centers, restaurants, retail and the RTD transit system from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday. Morning express routes begin at 6 a.m. for employees at Charles Schwab, Sky Ridge Medical Center and other key businesses along the route.

The most significant amount of growth in the Link program has come from employer growth in the area, Holwell said. He noted that Charles Schwab's employee force is almost double what it was when the Link started operating in September 2014.

Ridership, which rose from 62,329 in2014 to 80,819 in2016,increased at each of the six stops, a city annual report stated. Charles Schwab, the most popular destination, had an annual increase from 40,287 riders to 58,974 riders in those years.

In the program's first year, daily ridership averaged between 123 and 292 people, depending on the month. In its second year of operation, that number rose to between 252 and 346 people, depending on the month.

When the Southeast Light Rail extension opens in 2019, the new light rail station will be across the street from Sky Ridge Medical Center and Charles Schwab, the two most popular stops along the Link route. Howell said he and other city leaders are exploring the potential for demand-based transit in 2019.

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