ASPEN - Aspen's 25-year-old downtown bus station will soon take its first step toward a major overhaul. The city is preparing to seek proposals for initial planning work, including the conceptual redesign of Rubey Park.
The Elected Officials Transportation Committee, made up of elected officials from Aspen, Snowmass Village and Pitkin County, has budgeted $200,000 this year for the planning. The funds will come from the proceeds of a local sales tax that is devoted to transportation and controlled jointly by the three governments.
Actual rehabilitation of Rubey Park has been roughly estimated at $4 million to $5 million, but that work wouldn't take place until 2014 or 2015, according to John Krueger, city transportation director. The city has, however, applied for a $1 million state grant to apply to construction costs; it awaits final approval from the state Transportation Commission and will require local funding of the design work as well as a local allocation to the construction.
Renovation of Rubey Park, including an overhaul of the bus terminal itself and the layout surrounding it, has long been on Aspen's radar. About 500 bus trips a day come into the station during the busy winter season, according to the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority, and roughly 500 bus trips per day depart. During the winter, Rubey Park on Durant Avenue is not only the hub for the city's in-town bus routes and the valleywide commuter buses; it's also busy with the skier shuttles that ferry skiers and snowboarders between Aspen and the outlying ski areas - Aspen Highlands, Buttermilk and Snowmass.
"If you go over there in the morning on a ski day, on a weekend, it's maxed out and beyond," Krueger said.
Last year, RFTA carried 3.9 million riders throughout the valley bus system, which stretches from Aspen to Rifle and includes city routes in Aspen and Glenwood Springs. If half of those passengers passed through Rubey Park, that means nearly 2 million people came and went from the facility.
Local officials have long decried the state of the bus station, which was built in 1988 and serves as a key portal for everyone from the local work force and Aspen residents to resort guests.
"It's safe to say millions and millions of people have been through there since 1988," said RFTA CEO Dan Blankenship.
The city owns the bus terminal and leases it to RFTA. It is the only bus station the transportation agency operates, providing restrooms, indoor seating and a staffed counter where passengers can purchase bus passes and seek information.
Envisioned improvements involve rehabilitating the building, including its restrooms.
"The bathrooms are a big item and something we'd like to improve," Krueger said.
Outside, circulation for buses and passengers will get scrutiny. Raised concrete planters that block pedestrian movements and put the landscaping up several feet from the sidewalk will also get a look, Krueger predicted.
"We want to see how we could improve the operations piece and give riders a better experience inside and outside of the building," he said. "It's due for a makeover for sure."
The initial planning will involve assessing RFTA's needs, surveying bus riders and coming up with a schematic design. A second phase would produce detailed designs, followed by actual construction as the third phase, Krueger said.