Aspen returns to ‘normalcy’ with paid parking |

Aspen returns to ‘normalcy’ with paid parking

Cars line the parking spots on Hunter St. in downtown Aspen on Tuesday, May 19, 2020. (Kelsey Brunner/The Aspen Times)
Kelsey Brunner/The Aspen Times

RFTA phase 5 service plan will include:

• BRT service will increase hours of operation and have more frequent headways. Upvalley service will operate from 4:34 a.m. to 6:43 p.m. Downvalley service will operate from 5:55 a.m. to 8:18 p.m.

• Local valley buses will continue to run with the last bus at 10 p.m. upvalley and 12:15 a.m. downvalley. Buses will have half hour frequency between 4 a.m. and 9 p.m. upvalley and 6:15 a.m. to 11:15 p.m. downvalley.

• Hogback service will have two additional trips from Rifle and one additional trip to Rifle in the morning. Two additional trips have been added to Rifle, along with one additional trip from Rifle in the evening.

• Ride Glenwood schedules will remain the same.

• Half hour service to and from Snowmass Village will run later into the evening to connect with expanded local valley service.

• City of Aspen routes will increase hours. Riders can expect service from approximately 6:30 a.m. to midnight.

• The Cross Town Shuttle will also return on June 28; riders should expect a modified route due to the need to operate with a larger bus for the time being.

• Maroon Bells shuttles will start on June 28 by reservation only. The shuttle reservation window is currently open for June 28 through the end of July. Reservations can be made at

For Phase 5, RFTA will be reintroducing its single-door over-the-road buses, which have been equipped with sneeze curtains for the protection of Bus Operators. On these buses passengers will need to get on an off using the front door, however, on RFTA’s low-floor buses they will still need to get on and off buses using the rear door. For their safety, all passengers, except children 2 years of age and younger, are required to wear face coverings when boarding and riding on RFTA Buses.

For the latest schedule changes, the public should monitor RFTA’s website at

Questions, contact RFTA Communications Manager, Jamie Tatsuno at 970-384-4864 or

As bus service increases throughout the valley and tourists fill Aspen, the city is returning to its peak pricing for paid parking in the downtown core.

The city eliminated paid parking in March when the coronavirus pandemic hit Aspen and bus service went to bare bones to slow the spread of the disease.

As the economy slowly reopened in May and into June, the city on June 1 returned to paid parking at offseason rates, as well as keeping the Rio Grande parking garage and residential zones free.

“We’ve noticed that town is picking up and that parking is in demand,” City Manager Sara Ott told Aspen City Council on Tuesday. “I’m implementing getting parking back to normal starting July 6, as well as charging again for the garage.

“This coincides with on June 28 RFTA is increasing capacity on each bus, as well as doubling the number of buses running so we are going to have a lot more bus capacity, it’s still not going to be perfect but it is happening going forward.”

In recognizing that not all people will be able to take the bus due to capacity issues, or if they are in the vulnerable population and don’t want to be exposed, parking in residential zones will remain free.

Peak season pricing in the downtown core is $4 from 10 to 10:59 a.m., when it’s less busy. Then from 11 a.m. to 2:59 p.m., the price goes up to $6 per hour. It then drops back to $4 an hour from 3 to 5:59 p.m.

The city’s bus routes, which operate with funding from paid parking revenue, will increase as well.

Instead of operating 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily, the Burlingame, Castle Maroon, Cemetery Lane, Hunter Creek and Mountain Valley routes will change to around 6:30 a.m. to midnight.

The Cross Town Shuttle route will operate from 7:24 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily using a full-size bus on a modified route until a shuttle becomes available.

And the combined Burlingame/Mountain Valley route will continue as a cost savings and driver and vehicle shortage mitigation measure.

Officials are working toward cleaning protocols to reopen the Rubey Park Transit Center’s restrooms around the same time transit services increase on Sunday.

The Downtowner shuttled will resume free rides around town also on Sunday after stopping service in mid-March.

City staff has been working with the Downtowner and Pitkin County’s public health department in developing a safety plan that has now been approved.

Service will occur within the existing boundaries from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily, and vehicles will be limited to 50% occupancy.

Employees will have daily health checks, employees and riders must wear face coverings and each vehicle will be disinfected in high touch areas after every trip.

RFTA’s move to its “phase 5” service plan is the next step in a series of reopening for the valley-wide transit agency.

When it implemented phase 4 on May 10, average daily ridership increased 120% compared to the previous phase, which was bare bones service.

Phase 5 schedules will have roughly a 50% increase in the number of daily bus trips compared to phase 4.

The additional capacity should help to spread the demand throughout the day and enable RFTA to manage its limited number of backup buses more efficiently, according to transportation officials.

The demand in ridership has taxed RFTA’s ability to maintain passenger loads of 15 people at one time so bus drivers have had to leave commuters at bus stops.

Officials anticipate that as businesses begin opening up to a greater extent this summer, more workers will need to use public transit.

So RFTA is encouraging employers to offer their employees flexible work scheduling options whenever possible.

“We do not want to leave anyone behind at bus stops,” said RFTA CEO Dan Blankenship. “If local businesses can accommodate a flexible work schedule for their employees, this could help to spread out the rush hour passenger demand and minimize crowding on buses with restricted capacities.”

He added that RFTA has more seating capacity available during non-peak hours and if more people have the flexibility to ride then, it will leave more room for those who must travel at the busiest times.

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