All on board: Added bus service to New Castle increases RFTA ridership
The implementation of additional bus service to New Castle in December has paved the way for increased ridership along RFTA’s entire Hogback route.
In 2018, voters in Pitkin, Eagle and Garfield counties supported RFTA’s Ballot Issue 7A, a 2.65-mill levy property tax question, commonly referred to as “Destination 2040.”
One of the campaign’s many promises included increased bus service to New Castle from every hour to every half hour during peak times.
On Dec. 14 last year, that service arrived.
“Any new service will generally take a year or two for people to begin utilizing to its potential,” said Dan Blankenship, RFTA chief executive officer. “However, based on what we know about the response to the service so far, we are pleased.”
According to RFTA ridership data, in 2019 — prior to New Castle’s additional departure times — the Hogback commuter bus service between Glenwood Springs and Rifle averaged 275 passengers per day.
Following the implementation of New Castle’s half-hour service times Dec. 14, daily ridership for the Hogback route increased to an average of 343 riders between Glenwood Springs and Rifle to finish out 2019.
Additionally, total Hogback community bus service ridership for the entire month of December in 2018 amounted to 8,083 rides. During the same timeframe in 2019, the Hogback service facilitated 9,392 rides, marking a 16% increase.
“Over the next few months, RFTA plans to do more advertising to New Castle residents about the new service,” Blankenship said. “The half-hour frequency during peak commuting hours is very convenient for commuters, especially those who work in Glenwood Springs.”
Heading eastbound toward Glenwood Springs, the first RFTA bus departs from New Castle at 5:40 a.m. from its Main and Sixth Street stop. Buses then continue to depart every half hour from downtown until 9:40 a.m.
From late morning to midafternoon, RFTA buses service Main and Sixth Street nearly every hour until 3:10 p.m., when the half-hour service resumes and continues until 8:40 p.m.
RFTA services eastbound riders at New Castle’s Park & Ride stop at almost identical time intervals, just two minutes later.
Heading westbound toward Silt and Rifle, the first RFTA bus departs from New Castle’s Park & Ride stop at 5:59 a.m. and the last bus leaves at 9:31 p.m. from downtown.
The westbound schedule also has service times every half hour with the exception of a few late morning, mid-afternoon and late night time intervals.
“In wintertime, with weather like we’ve been having, I don’t think you want to be hanging out for an hour,” said New Castle Mayor Art Riddile.
Riddile serves as chairman of RFTA’s board of directors and worked as co-chair on the Destination 2040 campaign.
Riddile said no plans were currently on the table to improve either of New Castle’s bus stops.
No shelter currently exists where passengers depart and board RFTA buses on the north side of U.S. Highway 6 in New Castle near McDonald’s.
“That’s something we’re certainly thinking about,” Riddile said with respect to bus stop improvements.
Riddile said New Castle community members ranging from downtown restaurant owners to commuters traveling up and downvalley had approached him to compliment the additional bus service.
“It hasn’t gone unnoticed,” Riddile said.
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