The branding was bold. The floor was low. And, of course, there was that new bus smell.
The 40-foot-long vehicle, dubbed the VelociRFTA and bound for the Roaring Fork Valley's soon-to-open bus rapid transit route between Aspen and Glenwood Springs, made a stop at the Boulder Municipal Building at Broadway and Canyon Boulevard on Wednesday so the curious could get a sneak peek at what might be rolling up and down U.S. 36 by the beginning of 2016.
"I think people are excited about it," Regional Transportation District spokeswoman Marta Sipeki said as several folks climbed on board the bus to take a look around.
Boulder resident Tim Wheat, who took a seat to test out the comfort of a potential voyage between Boulder and Denver on the bus, said he looked forward to giving bus rapid transit -- or BRT -- a shot once it gets going in the northwest corridor. He said he believes in the concept of running buses in a dedicated lane and providing frequent and reliable service that is more train-like than bus-like in its operations.
"I like it -- I think it's great," he said. "It has the potential to be a better system than the one we have now."
RTD is working with the Colorado Department of Transportation to put in place BRT in the corridor, giving buses a dedicated lane in each direction in which to avoid traffic jams and keep to a precise schedule at the six stations along the way.
CDOT began work on the overhaul of U.S. 36 last summer and expects to finish the job -- from Federal Boulevard to Table Mesa park-n-Ride -- in early 2016.
In addition to the dedicated lane, the $425 million U.S. 36 Managed Lanes project includes a corridor-long bikeway and real-time intelligent signage.
RTD is planning to run a fleet of 59 BRT buses on U.S. 36 when the system goes operational. Sipeki said it's not yet certain what model of bus the agency ultimately will choose, but Wednesday's display was designed to give people a general idea of what to expect -- a low-floor bus for easier loading and an electronic fare system to reduce delays at stations.
She said BRT is an integral part of RTD's FasTracks project, which aims to build 122 miles of new commuter rail and light rail in the Denver metro area, along with 18 miles of BRT.
But Boulder resident Jenny Shank said BRT is no substitute for the 41-mile commuter rail line that RTD promised northwest-corridor voters, who were part of the majority that approved a sales tax increase nine years ago to pay for FasTracks.
Northwest Rail has been sidelined as the result of skyrocketing costs and the difficulty of finding common ground with BNSF, which owns the tracks a commuter train would use. Without new taxes, the train won't be built in the corridor until 2042, according to RTD projections.
"I like it but it's a little upsetting how much tax money Boulder County has paid and we don't get a train," Shank said, as her children monkeyed around on the bus. "But since we can't have that yet, this is a good alternative."
Kathleen Bracke, manager of GO Boulder, said one of the city's chief concerns with the new buses is that they have plenty of room to carry bicycles for those attempting to eliminate car travel at both ends of their commute.
She said BRT is a "piece of the puzzle" in providing as many transportation options as possible to residents of the city and other nearby communities. And it will certainly be an improvement over what exists now, she said.
"I think BRT on U.S. 36 will be a tremendous enhancement," she said.
Whitney Coe, a resident of Boulder who also turned up Wednesday to inspect the model bus, said the BRT concept is "outstanding." He said he takes the bus or his bike just about anywhere he goes, and making that bus more efficient will only attract more people to use it.
"Not only is it cheaper than putting in rail, but you're not going to get stuck in traffic and you're not going to have wear and tear on your vehicle," he said.