Garden of the Gods shuttles widely used this summer

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – Following a transportation study conducted earlier this year, the Garden of the Gods Foundation and the City of Colorado Springs’ Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services Department partnered to implement a free public shuttle from May 26 Sept. 2 in Garden of the Gods Park. The shuttle facilitated an estimated 61,000 boardings.

The shuttle fleet, comprised of two 14-passenger vans, made a three-stop loop at the temporary parking lot at Rock Ledge Ranch Historic Site, the Garden of the Gods Visitor & Nature Center and the intersection of Gateway Road and Juniper Way Loop, which leads to a trail to the central garden. The most popular place for visitors to board the shuttle was at the Visitor & Nature Center, while the most used exit point was the intersection of Gateway Road and Juniper Way Loop.

In addition to usage counts, the parks department collected 186 responses via a text survey from citizens who utilized the shuttle. When asked to rate the overall experience on a scale of one to five, with five being the best, 84 percent rated the overall experience as a four or higher.

The city also implemented a temporary overflow parking lot near Rock Ledge Ranch, which parked nearly 27,000 vehicles and averaged more than 600 cars on Saturdays alone. Labor Day Weekend saw the most usage with more than 1,600 cars parked in the lot Sept. 1-2.

“For a first-year program, we’re very pleased with the results and overall usage of both the shuttle and temporary parking lot,” said Kim King, parks and recreation manager. “The intention of this pilot was to explore alternate methods for visitors to experience the garden, and both the shuttle and the parking lot provided key learnings that will impact future transportation options in Garden of the Gods Park. We are currently exploring options for shuttle service next season, but have not yet made any decisions.”

The shuttles were managed and operated by Adventures Out West, which currently offers guided, purchasable jeep, Segway and trolley tours from the Visitor & Nature Center. It was funded by both the Garden of the Gods Foundation, a 501(c)(3) created in 1994 to preserve and maintain the park, and the parks department. The foundation also funded the transportation study conducted by Volpe National Transportation Systems Center.

Another program resulting from the transportation study is “Motorless Morning,” a special event designed to allow visitors to experience Garden of the Gods without vehicles. The first Motorless Morning was held on Earth Day (April 22), and a second Motorless Morning will be held Sunday (Oct. 7) from 5 a.m.-noon. For more information on the event, visit coloradosprings.gov/motorlessmorning.

Based on car and pedestrian counters, which are fully operational for the first time this year, an estimated 1.1 million cars entered the park and more than 619,000 pedestrians entered from the main lot trail between Jan. 1-Sept. 30, 2018.

Visitor numbers at the Visitor & Nature Center, owned and operated by the Garden of the Gods Foundation, are on pace to break annual visitation records in 2018. The current record of 1,201,638 was set in 2017 and followed record-breaking years in 2015 (876,474) and 2016 (1,018,439). From Jan. 1-Sept. 30, the Visitor & Nature Center welcomed 1,071,781 visitors, up more than 62,000 from the same timeframe in 2017.