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Longmont approves free bus program, city hopes to increase ridership

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Posted at 9:13 PM, Sep 28, 2016
and last updated 2016-09-28 23:13:17-04

LONGMONT, Colo. -- The Longmont City Council approved two high-profile public transportation programs as it discussed the city's 2017 budget on Tuesday.  

The first project that was approved was the Ride Free Longmont bus program, a two-year-old program which sought to increase bus ridership and help low-income families with costs.

The program started in 2014 and was paid by both the City of Longmont and Boulder County. Until 2016, the county footed 72 percent of the bill, while the city picked up the remaining 28 percent, according to our partners at Longmont Times-Call

This year, however, the cost of the program was split even between the county and the city. But the county isn't planning on funding the program in 2017 and beyond. 

City council members argued the program should still be funded, as it helps families meet other needs. 

"It allows people on the margins — including families with children — to save money they can use on other aspects of life," Stewart told the Times-Call. "Students have told me that Ride Free Longmont allows them the ability to get to school, after-school activities and jobs without putting the strain on their families, some of which are single-parent households."

Councilwoman Polly Christensen argued funding the Ride Free Longmont program would help alleviate the city's affordable housing crisis, while Mayor Dennis Coombs said putting money towards the program could diminish vehicle traffic, which would help toward decreasing road repairs. 

The vote to fund Ride Free Longmont passed 6-0, according to the Times-Call. 

-- First and Emery -- 

Longmont city council also approved keeping the intersection of First Avenue and Emery Street open.

The intersection is part of Longmont's agreement with developer 150 Main LLC for the South Main Station public-private partnership, which is supposed to turn the old Butterball plant into 315 high-end apartment units and 10,500 square feet of commercial space.

The city voted to keep the intersection open, as closing it would make construction more complicated due to three railroad tracks in the area, making costs jump from $1 million to an estimated $1.8 million.

The plan passed 6-0, with councilman Brian Bagley absent, according to the Times-Call. 

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