RFTA buses hauled 5.2 million riders in 2018, second-best year ever

Passengers board a bus in the Maroon Creek Valley.
RFTA/courtesy photo

The Roaring Fork Valley regional bus system topped 5 million passengers for a third time in 2018 but didn’t set a record.

The Roaring Fork Transportation Authority recorded a system-wide ridership of 5.21 million last year, according to preliminary numbers. That was down by 65,088 passengers, or 1.23 percent, from 5.28 million in 2017, according to a report by CEO Dan Blankenship.

He said 2018 started slower than 2017 because of the mild winter last year. Ridership was down more than 8 percent in January 2018 compared with the month the year prior. It was down 2.6 percent in February and 6.6 percent in March 2018 compared with 2017.

The 2018 ridership started to make up ground during the summer. For example, ridership on the Maroon Bells buses was up 27,603 passengers, or nearly 13 percent, in 2018, the report showed. Buses hauled 243,165 passengers to the popular Maroon Lake area.

Blankenship noted that the 2017 numbers didn’t include special services tied to the construction of the Grand Avenue Bridge. RFTA filtered out that extra ridership to make it an apples-to-apples comparison.

Among the subsets of service, the valley commuter service between Rifle and Aspen and points in between combined to haul 2.63 million passengers in 2018. That was up 45,033, or 1.74 percent.

RFTA’s quickest service, the BRT routes that are part of the valley commuter line, was up 3 percent for 2018.

City of Aspen ridership was down by 45,493 passengers, or 3.1 percent, to a total of 1.42 million. Blankenship said the milder weather in 2018 might have created an incentive for more people to find alternative ways of getting around.

Ride Glenwood Springs ridership was down 41,551, or nearly 20 percent, to 169,868.

Aspen Skiing Co. service to the ski areas was off by 47,583 passengers, or 8 percent. The buses to the ski areas hauled 541,804 passengers.

RFTA first cracked the 5 million riders mark in 2016, when it hauled 5.07 million passengers. The record was set in 2017 with 5.28 million Last year’s total was second best.