Bus stop elimination plan irks Carbondale officials
CARBONDALE ” Carbondale town officials say they were caught off guard by a Roaring Fork Transportation Authority proposal to eliminate one of the town’s most popular bus stops altogether, after it was found the new “bulb-out” extensions along Main Street won’t accommodate buses.
“This has been a design-build project, and RFTA has been at the table from the beginning. This is the first I’ve heard of this,” Carbondale Public Works Director Larry Ballenger said at the monthly RFTA Board of Directors meeting last week in Carbondale. “I’m amazed and frustrated that, if there were problems, why didn’t someone come to me?”
The RFTA board tabled the matter until its January meeting. For the time being, though, the bus stop at 7th Street in front of the municipal pool will remain closed.
RFTA staff has proposed doing away with the stop, which has already been closed since mid-summer due to the ongoing downtown streetscape work.
The problem, RFTA Director of Operations Kent Blackmer said, is that, with the new bulb-out pedestrian features at the intersection of Sixth and Main, the larger buses used on RFTA’s regional routes can no longer make the corner. Smaller buses could make the turn, he said, but can’t accommodate the typical volume of passengers on the regional routes.
“We take ownership that we didn’t fully understand the design of the bulb-outs in downtown Carbondale, and we didn’t do the engineering we needed to do,” Blackmer said.
Buses need a wider turn radius than the intersections at both Sixth and Main and Sixth and Colorado Avenue now allow, due to the new streetscape features, he said. A recent test run confirmed that when, while attempting the turn, it caused a significant traffic backup.
“If we had to do that with 95 buses a day, we couldn’t accomplish it without it being an ongoing safety issue,” Blackmer said.
Since the pool stop has been closed, the only bus stop in the middle part of Carbondale has been the one across from the Subway sandwich shop at the Highway 133 intersection. Buses coming into town on 133 turn at Colorado Avenue, and loop around onto Main via Eighth Street.
What’s now a drop-off only stop at Eighth and Main may also become a passenger pick-up location to make up for the elimination of the stop closer to downtown.
That proximity to downtown is the crux of the issue, said Carbondale’s two representatives on the RFTA board, Ed Cortez and John Hoffmann.
“The point is not whether the bus stop will stay by the pool, but that you would be abandoning a bus stop on Main Street in downtown that a lot of people use,” Cortez said. “I think we need to be a little more pro-active and come up with a solution.”
Added Hoffmann, “I think it would be unfair to businesses and visitors to take out that bus stop.”
Considering that voters just approved Ballot Question 4A to improve RFTA service over the next several years with the implementation of the Bus Rapid Transit plan, he also said any reduction in service would not sit well.
“This would be a huge, horrible PR move for RFTA at this time,” Hoffmann said.
RFTA bus riders also voiced their displeasure with the recommendation.
With winter coming, it will be harder to walk the extra distance to the nearest bus stop, said Janet Rothe, who regularly rides the bus from Glenwood Springs to her job at the Forest Service office in Carbondale.
“You need to get something worked out soon, or I and a lot of other people won’t be able to ride the bus this winter,” she said. “This plan would negatively affect a lot of our employees, and I think it would negatively affect your ridership.”
Other RFTA board members said it may be time for Carbondale to consider an in-town feeder bus system to serve the center of town, while RFTA’s regional buses would only pick up and drop off passengers at the Highway 133 park-and-ride facility.
Ballenger said the solution could be to tear out and redesign the bulbouts at whichever corners RFTA would need modifications to accommodate its buses.
“This problem is not insurmountable,” he said. “We’re just talking about bricks and concrete.”
RFTA is also proposing to make the bus stop on the east side of Highway 133, across from the park-and-ride, a drop-off location only as buses are headed out of town.
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