Bus riders get a price break | AspenTimes.com

Bus riders get a price break

Scott Condon
The Aspen Times

• The cost of riding the bus between El Jebel and Old Snowmass will drop from $3 to $1 in cash fare. Dan Blankenship, the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority’s chief executive officer, said Thursday that the reduction is needed out of fairness to residents of Basalt and the surrounding areas who are traveling within their community, he said.

“It was kind of crazy before — $3 for an in-town ride,” said Basalt Mayor and RFTA board Chairwoman Jacque Whitsitt.

The change could reduce revenues by $35,000 annually, Blankenship said, but it also could spur additional riders and reduce the loss. He envisions more midvalley residents riding the bus to Whole Foods Market, for example, if the fare is just $1.

• The debate about advertising on the exterior of buses isn’t as cut and dried as Blankenship thought. He avoided the idea of placing an EnCana logo on the exterior of buses because he didn’t think board members would go for it.

EnCana provided a $365,488 Community Investment Grant to RFTA to help with the cost of converting 22 buses to run on natural gas. One condition of the grant was placement of an EnCana logo on the buses, contingent on board support.

But a different deal was cut on Blankenship’s assumption that the board wouldn’t approve the logo. EnCana didn’t press the issue. Instead, it is offering drilling-rig tours for RFTA staff and board members, making a presentation to RFTA about natural-gas use and production, and placing brochures on RFTA buses that explain benefits of natural-gas use.

Whitsitt said she supports steering clear of the EnCana logo on the bus exteriors because RFTA’s board decided long ago that it wouldn’t accept advertising. However, the board has mostly turned over since that decision. Current board members sounded more willing to consider ads.

Owsley said RFTA should consider the “NASCAR approach” to advertising. The stock cars prominently plaster the ads of sponsors on their vehicles.

“I think we need to have a discussion about it,” Owsley said.

Eagle County Commissioner and RFTA board member Sara Fisher said the ECO Transit bus system that serves Vail and the rest of the Eagle Valley has “turned the corner” on the ad issue. Advertisers can purchase a wrap that goes around the buses.

RFTA board members Bill Boineau, of Snowmass Village, and Ted Edmonds, of Glenwood Springs, concurred with Owsley that exterior bus ads need to be discussed.

“I understand the objections, but I hate to leave money on the table,” Edmonds said.

No specific dates were set for the discussion. For now, EnCana logos will not be allowed on the exterior of buses. The oil-and-gas producer doesn’t seem eager to enter that fray.