In the last Great Depression FDR inherited a bad hand from the failed policies of the Hoover Administration. It was rare to hear the new President complain about the mess from those policies partially because there was no internet, twitter or Facebook. Every once in a while FDR would kick the dog and say “Hoover Dam!” While citizens were not connected in the technical frame of things radio was catching on (KLZ and KOA had powerful transmitters); there was power of the press in the Rocky Mountain News and The Colorado Springs Gazette -Telegraph and there was a transportation connection where people could meet face to face; work, and commute and even be visited by circuit rider ministers at their local church. “Train travel provided jobs and the Front Range was connected through work, through church and through community,” an old rancher tells the Front Range Examiner.
The I in I-25
After the second world war, the idea of train travel was still the connection but was waning with the advent of President Eisenhower’s, Interstate highway system. The retired rancher laughs and says, “Who knew that many communities would be divided as a result of the interstate system?” The communities of the village of Colorado Springs and Denver town are separated by a mere 50 miles but it might as well be 200 or 2000. The community is separated by media markets, by transportation and even by attitude. The recent attempts to start a feasibility study of a high speed rail system that would go through the Front Range was greeted with disdain and protest from people living in the Black Forest area of the Springs. “They didn’t want a train running above Highway 83,” said a planner, “so it probably won’t happen till 2030!”
Front Range Express
Two recent college grads are trying to raise money to bring back FREX as a business. This according to the Colorado Springs Gazette. While FREX service ended on Aug. 31 “Another connection between the communities has been severed” said one FREX rider. So Dan Ajamian and Sean Meenan, former High School classmates, have formed New FREX. The privatization of the bus service is not a new idea and it will be interesting to read the business plan that will seek investors or get bank loans for start-up expenses and to acquire two or three 57-passenger buses that would operate four round trips on weekdays,” Ajamian said. Colorado Springs Mayor Steve Bach ended an agreement Aug. 31 that kept the commuter bus service running— despite a 6-3 City Council vote to extend it — in order to save the $425,000 it would have cost to keep the service going through the end of the year. The reasoning was that there were not enough riders according to Bach. That would mean that part of the NEW FREX plan there would have to be such a cost and service benefit to commuters that they would have incentive for leaving their cars home.
The right questions
A group of associates and affiliates who are forming alliances recently met to discuss the disconnection of transportation, media, and other common union issues are writing and publishing a weekly Front Range Alliance article in the Front Range examiner that will ask a breakthrough question. Today the group has asked this question to help Ajamian and Meenan formulate a working model:
Identifying unsolved customer problems: The question for the new Front Range Express is to ask what would inspire riders to leave their cars at home and take the Frex?
What are the biggest hassles in riding the bus?
What kind of commuters is the bus least well suited?
What group of potential customers is as large as the current customer base but drives instead?
Who are the users of the bus service?
Is there job potential for the out of work in Denver and the Springs?
Who rides the bus that we never intended to be the customers? (This could be from Castle Rock or even Centennial or other stops)
What would we do differently if we had the perfect information and the perfect ride experience?
What would be the perfect Front Range Experience?
Will they offer Wi-Fi? (This was brought up by the workaholic in the bunch.)
Gourmet coffee? (This was brought up by the coffee roaster in the alliance)
Do they have a surprise success story?
Have they imagined the perfect ride?
Can the FREX be flexible? Think of the ways the ride could flex with schedules or even partner with companies if workers could be productive on the ride?
A flexible, perfect ride? That could be a better place to start. The community connection from Monday to Friday, more productivity or even a college class from an online university. It’s all about making connections and Frexablity.