FORT CARSON, Colo. -- If the Fort Carson post shuttle seems a little busier than it used to be, that's because it is, with growth of more than 1,000 percent since October.

There have been some changes in the way the shuttles are run, but a lot of Soldiers are arriving without privately-owned vehicles, said Anneliesa Barta, Sustainable Fort Carson. She briefs incoming Soldiers on the free shuttle service.

"The shuttle schedule is running so tight and so consistent that people are trusting it will be there when they need it," she said.

Shuttles run on set routes, but drivers can make deviations, if necessary.

"We're going to try and accommodate the Soldier as much as possible. We're also going to try and stay on the route as much as possible," said Sgt. 1st Class John Wade, noncommissioned officer in charge of the post shuttle.

Stops are marked, but riders can also hail a driver if they're not near a stop. All vehicles are identified as "Fort Carson Post Shuttle."

"Our goal is five to seven minutes (to pick a rider up). It could be earlier. It could be a couple minutes later," said Sgt. 1st Class Matthew Gillespie, former noncommissioned officer in charge of the shuttle.

In October 2013, when many of the changes were implemented, ridership was 1,445. The total number of rides in March 2014 was 16,446.

"The shuttle is run by Soldiers for Soldiers. They know Soldiers need to get where they are going fast," Barta said. "That's the promise to the ridership."

The shuttles are driven by Soldiers on red-cycle tasking. Spc. Andre Gidney, 299th Brigade Engineer Battalion, 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, has been driving for about three weeks.

"I remember when I was in the barracks, I always felt stranded," he said. "(The shuttle) is utilized a lot. Normally, the longest I'll go without hearing a call is two minutes, tops."
Pvt. Michael Ellis had been on Fort Carson for less than 12 hours when he took his first ride.

"A friend of mine told me to take (the shuttle). He said it's the fastest way to get around," he said.

The shuttle runs seven days a week from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., but Gillespie said they are considering extending the hours and looking at where ridership is the greatest.

"We're looking at the (statistics) -- What are our hot spots? What are not? Out by Gate 20 … for six months, we had zero riders at that area. Now I think about 10 people a month pick it up there," he said.

The number of shuttles on a route can also be adjusted, depending on how busy the route is, Wade said.

Shuttles can go most places on post, but since weapons aren't allowed on nontactical vehicles, drivers can't transport Soldiers to the range areas.

Shuttles are not permitted to pick up or drop off riders in housing areas. Riders going to or from barracks areas are asked to come out to the street to pick up the shuttle.

"We try not to go to the barracks parking lots," Wade said. "It saves time, and it makes it easier rather than pulling in and out of parking lots."

The service is provided for Soldiers and, on a space available basis, their Families and Department of Defense civilians.

To use the shuttle, riders must be at least 17. Children 13-16 may ride with someone 17 or older. Children 12 or younger must be accompanied by a parent or guardian. Child safety seats are mandatory and must be provided by the rider, and there are wheelchair-accessible vehicles available.

While the total number of rides has gone up dramatically, the fuel cost has only increased slightly and the amount spent on fuel per rider has actually decreased.

"It used to be $2.40 a rider. I think we're down to 35 cents a rider in regard to fuel savings," Gillespie said.

The post shuttle is part of Fort Carson's goal of being a Net Zero installation by reducing pollution.

"It encourages use of mass transit and ridesharing on post … less traffic on post improves air quality, which benefits the region," Barta said. "Using the shuttle also fosters social connections. It's a great place to meet people. Even Soldiers who have their own personal vehicles are using the shuttle because it's a fast, convenient and reliable way of getting around post."

Call 526-6453 for more information on the post shuttle.