Buses a valuable option | AspenTimes.com

Buses a valuable option

Nearly 215,000 more people rode Roaring Fork Transportation Authority buses in 2005 than did in 2004. The surge of riders has RFTA, Colorado’s second-largest public transportation agency, scrambling to find new seats for all those passengers standing in the aisle. This is very good news for the valley. The increase in ridership means thousands upon thousands of cars didn’t crowd Highway 82 in 2005, and thousands of pounds of pollutants didn’t enter the atmosphere.RFTA may not have enough buses to handle the influx, but that’s a good problem for a transit agency to have. The numbers are a welcome sign of success for a transit agency that has struggled in recent years to balance its budget and attract riders. So congratulations to RFTA.CEO Dan Blankenship attributed the rise in demand to several factors, including high gasoline prices, snowy winter weather and high levels of local employment. Clearly, under the right circumstances, there is a larger market for RFTA’s services. And we mean larger in both the numerical and geographical senses of the word. But hopefully the increase in ridership will be permanent.The biggest increase in ridership came in RFTA’s Grand Hogback service, which jumped 15 percent over the course of the year. The Grand Hogback service runs between Glenwood Springs and the western Garfield County communities of New Castle, Silt and Rifle.The governments of Garfield County, Silt and Rifle are still not members of RFTA. While six municipalities and two counties between New Castle and Aspen have voted to support RFTA with tax dollars, these Garfield County holdouts have yet to do so, even though they reap enormous benefits from RFTA service.RFTA is a viable and valuable transit agency. It serves the Roaring Fork and Colorado river valleys well, especially in times of high gas prices and lousy winter weather. RFTA deserves the financial support of all the communities it serves.

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