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There’s now an easy and free way to get around Golden.

Colorado School of Mines and the City of Golden have launched all routes for the free Ore Cart shuttle service. The partners hosted a ribbon-cutting ceremony Aug. 9 to celebrate the full launch ahead of Mines’ 2023-24 academic year.

The Ore Cart has four routes:

  • The Gold route, which is currently a city pilot program, circulates around downtown Golden. It’s operating seven days a week through Labor Day, after which service on Sundays will end. For the full schedule, visit GuidingGolden.com.
  • The Silver route will circulate around the Mines campus. Starting Aug. 21, it’ll run shuttles every 15 minutes between 6:30 a.m.-6:30 p.m. Monday-Friday, and 10 a.m.-2 p.m. on Saturdays.
  • The Tungsten route will travel between campus, downtown Golden and RTD’s W line at the Jeffco Government Center. Starting Aug. 21, it’ll run shuttles every 15 minutes between 6:30 a.m.-6:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 7:30 a.m.-7:30 p.m. on Saturdays.
  • The Iron route is an on-demand service between the Mines campus, downtown Golden, the Coors Technology Center in northeast Golden, and RTD’s G line at the Ward Road Station. Service hours are 6:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. It’s being operated by the West Line Corridor Collaborative and Downtowner, which has funding in place through Nov. 30.

All routes are free to the public, although trips on the Iron route must be scheduled via the Ore Cart app.

This joint venture between the city and Mines should help alleviate both organizations’ parking woes; provide better access between campus, downtown and public transit stations; and reduce the number of single-occupancy vehicles on Golden’s roads.

Both Mayor Laura Weinberg and Mines President Paul C. Johnson said neither organization could host shuttles on its own, so a partnership proved natural to enhance services for the entire community.

“(The Ore Cart)’s something predictable and affordable,” Weinberg said at the Aug. 9 ribbon-cutting event on the Mines campus. “It’s going places people actually want to go.”

‘Money well spent’

The Ore Cart is meant to replace the Mines Rover, the low-speed autonomous shuttle that had a four-month pilot in fall 2021. While it had limitations, it ultimately proved there’s a need for public transit across campus and beyond, Mines students and staff members have said.

Rena Zhu and Charles O’Donnell, members of Mines student-government organizations, emphasized how students have long wanted to connect to the RTD stations, where they can use their free passes to access almost the entire Denver metro area.

Additionally, many students don’t have cars, and those who do have trouble finding parking on campus after 9 a.m., they described. While Mines will be adding on-campus parking over the next few years, Zhu said there’ll always be a need for a system like the Ore Cart.

Not only will they be convenient for navigating Golden in the wintertime when streets and sidewalks are slippery, but O’Donnell said he could’ve used the shuttles last year when he had to get around campus on crutches.

“It’ll improve the students’ lives,” O’Donnell said.

Student fees are partially funding the service, along with Mines general funds and city funds.  Zhu said the student-government organizations saw how desperately shuttles were needed around the campus and city, so they voted to help fund them.

“It’s money well spent,” Zhu continued.

Putting the pedal to the metals

Since June 16, the city has hosted a pilot program for the Gold route to help alleviate summertime downtown parking woes.

According to data provided by Golden planner Matt Wempe, between its launch June 16 and Aug. 6, the downtown circulator shuttle had 447 riders. Saturdays were the most popular, accounting for 45% of the route’s overall ridership thus far. The most passengers it saw in single day was 59 on Aug. 5.

Mines is scheduled to take over the Gold route’s operations in September.

Overall, Mines is providing the Ore Cart shuttle service’s drivers, vehicles and maintenance. It’s also funding roughly two-thirds of the overall costs, while Golden is funding the rest.

Jason Slowinski, Mines’ associate vice president of infrastructure & operations, has previously said the overall costs are projected at $600,000-$700,000 a year.

Meanwhile, Wempe said the City of Golden can offset future costs with $1 million in federal funding it’ll receive in 2024-25.

Mines and city officials have invited all riders to provide feedback so the two organizations can improve the service as needed and ensure its long-term success.

For more information on the Ore Cart shuttle service, visit mines.edu/transit or visit GuidingGolden.com.