Low gas prices possibly cutting into Aspen-area bus ridership | AspenTimes.com

Low gas prices possibly cutting into Aspen-area bus ridership

A Roaring Fork Transportation Authority bus prepares to load at the newly remodeled Rubey Park bus station in Aspen Thursday. RFTA hauled more than 4.3 million passengers through November, the latest month available.

The public bus system in the Roaring Fork Valley showed just a small gain in ridership through November, even though the economy is humming along.

The Roaring Fork Transportation Authority hauled 4.37 million passengers systemwide through November. That is an increase of 54,491 passengers, or 1.26 percent, from the same period in 2014, according to a report by RFTA CEO Dan Blankenship. The figure includes all service in the Roaring Fork Valley as well as in the lower Colorado River Valley. November statistics are the latest available.

RFTA's ridership was about 4.75 million last year, making it the second best ever for the agency. The record was set in 2008 with 4.85 million passengers. RFTA has never topped the 5-million-passenger mark.

Blankenship said earlier this year that low gas prices are probably enticing some commuters to drive personal vehicles.

The commuter bus service — between Aspen and all points downvalley, including direct service to Snowmass Village — was RFTA's biggest gainer. Ridership was up 77,596 to 2.48 million. That was a gain of 3.22 percent.

Ridership on buses within the city of Aspen was down 55,970, or 5.72 percent, to 922,169 through November.

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The free skier-shuttle service, operated through a contract with Aspen Skiing Co., was down by 7,066 passengers, or 1.55 percent, through November. The ridership was at 449,091 through November.

The number of passengers transported through contract service in Glenwood Springs was off by 8,531 passengers, or 4.39 percent. That service hauled 186,015 passengers through November.

The biggest growth came on the Maroon Bells service. Ridership jumped from 123,128 in the summer and fall 2014 to 174,202 last year. That was an increase of 51,074 passengers, or 41.5 percent.

RFTA's ridership was up about 17 percent last year — the first full year of its expanded service into the bus-rapid-transit service. RFTA invested $50 million to add buses more frequently and with fewer stops between Aspen and points downvalley. It also improved bus stops.

Bus-rapid-transit service is up 2 percent this year. That specially designated service hauled 1,751,143 passengers.

scondon@aspentimes.com

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