Residents of the Arkansas Valley can now ride the Bustang passenger bus to Colorado Springs, the Colorado Department of Transportation announced last week.

The addition of service from Pueblo to Colorado Springs will fill a big gap in the state's Bustang system that launched in 2015 with a route between Fort Collins and Denver.

Since then, stops have been added along Interstate 25 south to Colorado Springs and much of Interstate 70.

“This is a natural and much-needed connection for Southern Colorado to have,” David Krutsinger, the agency's director of rail and transit, said in a statement. “By linking Pueblo to Colorado Springs, it’ll close a vital gap and give passengers a lot more options to travel around the state.”

Steve Nawrocki, director of the Senior Resource Development Agency in Pueblo, which contracts with the state to provide the bus drivers and operate the Bustang routes from Pueblo to Lamar and Alamosa, said the agency also will operate the Pueblo-Colorado Springs route.

The segment was a major missing piece in the goal of extending the bus system to Southern Colorado, Nawrocki said. SRDA's involvement stemmed from its stepping forward in answer to the state's call for an operator to oversee the region's bus service, including the hiring and management of bus drivers, he said.

"The connectivity to the whole Bustang service route is going to be a great asset for people living in Southern Colorado. We're very proud to be a part of it," Nawrocki said.

The service from Lamar to Pueblo - known as Outrider - departs at 7:10 a.m. weekdays (there is no service on weekends or holidays) from the Lamar Welcome Center. It then has stops in Fort Lyon, Las Animas, La Junta, Swink, Rocky Ford, Manzanola, Fowler and Pueblo Memorial Airport before arriving at the Pueblo Transit Center at 10:26 a.m.

Return service leaves the Pueblo Transit Center at 3:35 p.m. and arrives in Lamar at 6:48 p.m., after making the same stops as on the westbound trip.

For those heading north from Pueblo, the bus will depart the Pueblo transit center at 12:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. The schedule allows Denver-bound passengers to make a connection to an afternoon Denver-bound bus out of Colorado Springs. The Pueblo bus will then make the return trip and arrive at the transit center at 3:15 p.m. each weekday.

The northbound route will run from the Pueblo Transit Center to the Tejon Street stop in Colorado Springs with a stop in Fountain. From Colorado Springs, riders can continue on to Denver's Union Station and the statewide Bustang network and Denver's RTD bus and commuter rail lines, including to Denver International Airport.

Passengers can also catch the Outrider service from Pueblo to Alamosa, which travels west on U.S. 50 to Canon City and Salida, and then south to Poncha Springs and Moffat before arriving in Alamosa.

The Pueblo-Colorado Springs line helps "fulfill our mission to provide intrastate transit services to people living in rural areas and beyond the (Interstate 25) corridor,” Krutsinger said.

For information on routes, schedules and ticket purchases, visit ridebustang.com.

ddarrow@chieftain.com