Garfield County agrees to pay for Hogback bus service
GLENWOOD SPRINGS – Garfield County agreed Monday to go ahead and pay up to $614,000 to keep the troubled “Hogback” bus service running through the end of 2010.
But the members of the Board of County Commissioners are hoping the city of Rifle will kick in at least $20,000 toward the route, which is part of the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority’s scheduled bus system between Aspen and Rifle.
In addition, the commissioners have taken the first steps toward creating a new bus service for the western end of Garfield County, from Glenwood Springs to either New Castle or Rifle.
County staff members are putting together a report that, according to County Manager Ed Green, is to be ready by early January and will outline the county’s options in terms of starting up a new bus service.
And County Commissioner Mike Samson said that he has talked with the mayors of the towns in the western part of the county and that they are interested in giving up on RFTA and seeing what the county can come up with.
“I’m amazed that people are interested,” declared Commissioner Tresi Houpt, who has long supported increased Garfield County involvement in, and funding for, the RFTA bus service.
“Where is the money going to come from?” she asked.
The municipalities of Aspen, Snowmass Village, Basalt, Carbondale, Glenwood Springs and New Castle, as well as Pitkin and Eagle counties, are members of RFTA, the district that operates the bus service.
The towns collect sales tax revenues to help fund the operation, and the agency expanded bus service to Rifle earlier this decade even though Garfield County, Rifle and Silt aren’t members of the district.
According to published reports, the agency’s total budget for 2010 comes to more than $38 million, with a total ridership expected to drop to 4.37 million next year. Ridership stood at 4.85 million for 2009, according to reports.
Garfield County last year paid $465,000 to underwrite the Hogback service, and earlier this year raised that amount to $565,000 in the county’s 2010 budget.
The vote to raise the county’s contribution was 2-1, with Houpt and Commissioner Mike Samson voting together against Commissioner John Martin.
“I think our offer of $465,000 has to stand,” said Martin, quickly conceding that it already was up to $565,000 and declaring a short time later, “We’re running out of money.”
“This is during an economic time when it’s very difficult for people to find alternate transportation,” responded Houpt, adding that if the county lets the Hogback service go without “a great deal of lead time [for riders], we’re not serving our constituents very well.”
The commissioners have yet to consider an intergovernmental agreement [IGA] with RFTA, which would be necessary to formalize the funding agreement.
Samson said a special meeting has been called for February 2010 at the Rifle campus of Colorado Mountain College, so that officials of the county and the various towns can further discuss the issue.
As for Houpt’s question about the source of funding, Samson said, “A lot of it is going to have to come from Garfield County,” with whatever help can be found from the towns.
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