ASPEN - Roaring Fork Transportation Authority's bus ridership for 2012 through November was down about 152,494, or 4.12 percent, from the same period in 2011, according to the agency's latest report.
Ridership on valleywide commuter service was slightly ahead of 2011's pace, but the number of riders on Aspen service is lagging, and Glenwood Springs' ridership plummeted after a fare started being collected.
Although December's numbers aren't available yet, it appears that 2012 will return RFTA to a pattern of falling ridership. RFTA registered a 6.27 percent increase last year after big losses in passengers the prior two years.
Through November 2012, RFTA has hauled 3.55 million passengers compared with 3.70 million over the same period in 2011, according to the report.
Regional Highway 82 service was up by 29,310 passengers, or 1.72 percent. However, ridership in the city of Aspen was down 36,823, or 3.77 percent. Ride Glenwood Springs' ridership was down 177,076 or nearly 43 percent through November, the report showed.
Bus service to Maroon Bells was hopping last summer. There were 101,172 passengers carried on the service. That's 16,624, or about 20 percent, more than the prior summer. In other areas, Grand Hogback bus ridership was up slightly through November, ridership on free skier shuttles paid for by Aspen Skiing Co. was up 2.5 percent, and X Games RFTA service and charter service was up. Senior van and Burlingame ridership were both down.
Falling gas prices and the relatively mild winter thus far could make it difficult for RFTA to get back on track. President and CEO Dan Blankenship said in previous interviews that ridership is largely influenced by gas prices and weather. High prices and snowy weather spur people to ride buses, he said.
The state of the economy also influences ridership, according to Blankenship. History shows that a strong local economy translates into higher ridership.
RFTA plans to start expanded service with its VelociRFTA service starting in September.