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Key RFTA officials exit valley

Allyn Harvey
Aspen Times Staff Writer

Three of the principal planners behind the concept of valleywide rail and bus service are hitting the road.

Alice Hubbard, the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority’s director of development, Mike Davis, RFTA’s director of planning, and Roger Millar, a consultant with OTAK in Carbondale, have all announced plans, one way or another, to leave local transit politics behind.

Hubbard, a Carbondale resident who began working on transportation issues in 1997 first for the city of Aspen and later RFTA, said she was leaving to spend more time with her young children. She also plans to use the time she frees up to become more involved in the community.

Hubbard plans to go into business for herself, merging the management and communication skills she’s gained at RFTA with the experience she had at Rocky Mountain Institute developing the community energy workbook.

The workbook was the basis for the creation of the Community Office for Resource Efficiency, which helps local governments, companies and individuals maximize their energy efficiency.

“It’s being used around the country,” Hubbard said of her work at RMI. “I learned how writing a workbook like that can influence communities.”

Ideally, she said, her new business will allow her to write similar workbooks and work with communities in other ways to lessen their impact on the environment.

She led the rewrite of the corridor investment study of the publicly owned railroad right of way between Glenwood Springs and Aspen, transforming the original study that focused on commuter rail into one that is focused on a bus-rapid transit system. The job introduced her to the multilayered politics of transit, from raucous local meetings to stubborn state transportation administrators to skeptical political leaders.

Hubbard will still work with RFTA on smaller projects on a contract basis.

“Largely due to her organizational and planning efforts, we had a successful vote for the rural transportation authority,” said Dan Blankenship, RFTA’s executive director. He was referring to the 2000 election in which voters in seven separate jurisdictions agreed to raise taxes to support a regional transportation system.

Millar, the consultant from OTAK, helped design the commuter rail line that was under consideration in the late 1990s and helped develop the current proposal for a bus-rapid transit system. He has taken a job at DMJM + Harris, a Washington, D.C.-based consultancy with over 3,000 employees.

“My work at RFTA was pretty much done,” Millar said. “The corridor investment study came out in May. I think it’s a good, solid document.”

Millar, who opened the Carbondale office for Portland-based OTAK, will continue working on transit projects on the East Coast and with the National Park Service.

“It was a good time for me to go, because I’m not leaving any clients in a lurch,” Millar said. “It was a great opportunity for me to be a vice president of a company that is 10 times the size of the company I just left.”

At the heat of the contentious rail debate, Millar became the focus of much of the anti-rail camp’s venom, and was often referred to sarcastically as RFTA’s highly paid consultant.

Millar, a ninth-generation Virginian, said he eventually plans to move West again, hopefully with his new employer. He will also be returning next month to assist with presentations about the bus-rapid transit system and corridor investment study to local governments.

Former Aspen City Councilman Tony Hershey, one of Millar’s steadiest and at times harshest critics, said yesterday that he wishes Millar well. But he couldn’t resist sending out one more missive: “How can he leave, we don’t have a train yet?”

Davis, RFTA’s director of planning since 1998, is leaving to take over planning and development for the bus system in Billings, Mont. “It’s really been a dream of ours to live in Montana, especially my wife who’s wanted to move there since she was 14,” he said.

Davis’ biggest role was to turn the rural transportation authority that voters funded in 2000 into a working system. His duties included setting routes and schedules, coordinating regional service with local service, working with transit systems adjacent to RFTA’s service area, and providing technical analysis for the corridor investment study.

“I think all my experience here helped me get the job in Billings. But if there’s one thing I’m proud of, it’s opening the Grand Hogback service between Rifle and Glenwood,” Davis said.

Blankenship said he expects to begin a job search in the next week or so for a position that will likely merge Davis’ job with Hubbard’s.

“We’re going to look at both positions and the resources we commit, and see if we can’t create one position, a director of planning and development,” Blankenship said.

[Allyn Harvey’s e-mail address is aharvey@aspentimes.com]


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