Aspen-area bus system workers get bonus for extra effort during X Games
Workers at the Roaring Fork Valley’s public bus agency kicked it into high gear to meet demands during the Winter X Games last month. They will soon get rewarded for their efforts.
Roaring Fork Transportation Authority will pay drivers, mechanics and support staff a $25 bonus for each day they worked during the X Games. It’s not much, said RFTA Chief Executive Officer Dan Blankenship, but it’s a token of appreciation for the extra effort.
The bonus program will cost between $18,000 and $19,000, Blankenship said. The funds will be found from savings in other areas, he said.
It’s nearly impossible to pinpoint how many extra passengers RFTA hauled because of the X Games. RFTA co-director of operations John Hocker said examining the system-wide ridership during the four days of the X Games compared with the same four days the week before paints a good picture.
There were 150,972 passengers on Thursday through Sunday of X Games weekend, Jan. 26 to 29, according to data pulled from buses, Hocker said. During the prior week, RFTA served 79,086 passengers over those same days.
The X Games ridership was up by 71,886, or 91 percent, over regular ridership. That doesn’t include passengers hauled by two private transit firms hired by Aspen Skiing Co. and ESPN. One of the contractors focused on trips between Buttermilk and Aspen. The other handled Buttermilk to the Intercept Lot and Snowmass Village. Their passenger numbers were likely immense at times over the four days.
“This is my 15th year doing X Games,” Hocker said Thursday. “It’s amazing to me that we can carry this many people.”
Cold temperatures on the opening days of the event, a mass end to sporting events, and a concert at Buttermilk the Friday night of X Games created the main challenges for RFTA.
“The extremely cold weather on Thursday, the first day of X Games, resulted in smaller crowds in the afternoon and evening than we have been experiencing in the past on opening day,” Hocker wrote in a memo to RFTA’s board of directors.
On Friday, there were an estimated 4,000 spectators at the last sporting event of the night as well as 7,000 fans attending a concert. When both events ended at the same time, the transportation system was overwhelmed.
“Although there were plenty of buses between the three entities, it took a considerable amount of time (approximately 1.5 hours) to move everyone out of the venue, and buses were running outbound until approximately 1:00 a.m.,” Hocker wrote.
The wait likely seemed longer for some people waiting for the bus because temperatures by 11 p.m. were below zero.
Despite the slow start Thursday, RFTA ended up hauling nearly 8,000 more passengers during X Games this year than in 2016, Hocker reported.
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