$2 to $4 fare hike proposed for Maroon Bells bus
The staff of the Aspen-area public bus agency is recommending that the fare for a ride to the Maroon Bells be increased by at least $2 and possibly as much as $4.
The Roaring Fork Transportation Authority staff wrote in a memo to the board of directors that the fare for adults should go from $6 to $8. The fee for youth six to 16 years and seniors 65 years of age and older should increase from $4 to $6, the memo said. The proposed fares are on the low end of the range the staff is recommending.
“Our records indicate the current fare structure has been in place since at least 2004,” said the memo by Dan Blankenship, the bus agency’s CEO, and Michael Yang, director of finance.
RFTA’s board of directors is scheduled to ponder the fare hike at its monthly meeting Thursday. The meeting will be held at Glenwood Springs City Hall. The public part of the meeting will start at 9:15 a.m.
The bus service is expected to run as a deficit of $116,800 this year if no changes are made. Ridership has swollen to record numbers in recent years, but fares cover only about 88 percent of the operating expenses, “which is exceptionally high for a public transit service,” the staff said.
However, fare revenues are expected to drop this summer because Aspen Skiing Co. will start charging $5 to park at its garage at Aspen Highlands. The Maroon Bells bus service has staged at Highlands the past few years. A parking fee has never been charged, but Skico says it needs to cover its expenses.
There is “price elasticity” for the service. For each 10 percent increase in price for service, transit models show there is a 4 percent loss of ridership, according to Blankenship and Yang. They calculated that adding $5 to the expense of a trip to the Bells would “result in an estimated loss of fares of approximately $50,118” if RFTA keeps its fares at the existing price.
If it increases fares by $2, it can offset the loss of revenue from fewer passengers, according to the model. The fare increase is needed just to make up for the loss anticipated from Skico’s $5 parking fee. A subsidy would still be necessary because the fares wouldn’t offset the operating expenses, the analysis showed.
Nearly three years after Aspen City Council cleared the founder of Jazz Aspen Snowmass to launch a jazz performance and education center downtown, Jim Horowitz said he expects the project will get rolling before the year is over.
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