Bus riders facing fare hike next year | AspenTimes.com

Bus riders facing fare hike next year

Scott Condon
Aspen, CO Colorado

Bus riders in the Roaring Fork Valley might face a 5 percent fare hike next year.

The Roaring Fork Transportation Authority will consider increasing its prices for 2008 after holding the line on fares this year, Chief Executive Officer Dan Blankenship said Thursday.

It might be wise for the bus agency to raise fares more often, but at lower amounts, rather than boost prices drastically every few years, Blankenship said. RFTA raised fares 15 percent in 2006 because of soaring fuel prices. It didn’t deter riders.

RFTA buses hauled more than 4 million passengers in 2006, an increase of about 11.5 percent over the previous year. Ridership is up another 8 percent so far this year, Blankenship said.

A 5 percent fare increase wouldn’t gouge pocketbooks too greatly. The bus agency’s popular 10-punch pass now sells for $13.75. A 5 percent increase would boost the price by 70 cents.

Revenues from fares account for about 35 percent of RFTA’s annual expenses. The agency is heavily dependent on sales tax revenues it collects from Aspen to New Castle.

RFTA’s board of directors will be asked in October while working on the 2008 budget to decide whether to raise fares.

A memo from Blankenship to the RFTA’s board said the budget will be developed initially with the assumption that service levels will remain the same next year. However, sales-tax growth could fuel additional service.

Blankenship said the greatest needs are:

– more direct service from Glenwood Springs and Carbondale to Aspen;

– increased frequency on the Grand Hogback route between Glenwood Springs and Rifle.

– Better integration of regular service and skier shuttles traveling between Aspen and Snowmass Village. The skier shuttles, which the Aspen Skiing Co. contracts for, are underutilized in some directions at some points of the day.

RFTA also is studying if wages should be increased for drivers, mechanics and other “hard-to-recruit” positions.

“This is being done to ensure that RFTA is competitive in the marketplace and better equipped to attract and retain an adequate number of these critical employees,” Blankenship’s memo said.