EL PASO COUNTY, Colo. - A tour bus company in Colorado Springs that formerly offered round trips to the summit of Pikes Peak will resume that service next month to help offset the loss of the popular Cog Railway.
Gray Line Tours plans to begin a shuttle bus service April 15.
"We used to do it but then we stopped because the Cog was doing such a good job," said manager Chuck Murphy. "We got the permission we needed from the Broadmoor (owner of the Cog) and the Pikes Peak Highway to start it up again, and people have been asking us to come back."
Murphy said Gray Line can transport around one tenth of the 2,400 passengers handled daily by the Cog, before it closed for the rest of the year to evaluate its century-old infrastructure.
Gray Line will start by using vans and small buses that can carry between 14 and 29 passengers, and charge a fare of $65 for a four-hour round trip including stops along the way.
"Yes, that's more than the $40 fare on the Cog," Murphy said. "But we have to pay a toll on the highway and the Cog didn't have to."
The fare will be $35 for children 15 and younger.
Gray Line will begin with departure times at 9 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. From Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day weekend, the company will double its number of daily trips, leaving at 8 a.m., 10 a.m., 1 p.m. and 3 p.m.
All trips will depart from the old Denver and Rio Grande railroad depot at 30 Sierra Madre St. in downtown Colorado Springs.
"We have 76 parking spots available there," Murphy said.
Gray Line will start taking reservations on May 28 and also will announce fares for groups and nonprofit organizations around that time.
Taking a shuttle to the summit would benefit drivers who prefer to avoid dealing with heavy traffic or sudden weather changes, such as a brief period of heavy, blowing snow that closed the upper section of the highway Friday afternoon.Some visitors said Gray Line's fares are too expensive and they prefer the freedom of stopping wherever they like, for as long as they like.
Murphy said Gray Line needs to hire 20 people to work as drivers or tour guides.
So far, at least three other tour companies plan, or are considering, an expansion of service.