RFTA bus ridership falls 12 percent to 4.29 million
ASPEN – The number of passengers riding buses operated by the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority fell nearly 12 percent in recession-racked 2009, according to a preliminary report.
RFTA had 4.29 million riders last year compared to 4.85 million in 2008, according to a report released Monday. The decline was steep because 2008 was a record year for RFTA, and ridership in 2009 was probably affected by several factors related to the recession, RFTA Chief Executive Officer Dan Blankenship said.
The ridership in 2008 was boosted by an “epic snow year” and gasoline prices topping $4 per gallon.
“In 2008, RFTA’s valley commuter services experienced standing-room-only situations at many times during the day throughout the year,” Blankenship said.
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Ridership in 2009 was “on par” with that record year through the first few months until the recession tightened its grip on the valley. Blankenship said he suspects that employers hired fewer workers starting in summer 2009 and including this winter, which meant fewer people riding the bus. Gas prices fell below $3 per gallon for all of 2009, making it more affordable for some people to drive personal vehicles.
In addition, RFTA reduced service on its Roaring Fork Valley and Hogback routes, and it raised fares in September. Ridership decreases are typically associated with fare increases.
Even so, 2009 was the fourth straight year that RFTA’s ridership topped 4 million, a feat first accomplished in 2006.
RFTA’s preliminary report for 2009 ridership shows year-round service in the city of Aspen was down nearly 6 percent from 2008 while seasonal Aspen service fell 20 percent.
Valley-wide service along the Highway 82 corridor and between Snowmass Village and various points dropped 13 percent in ridership. The Hogback service between Glenwood Springs and Rifle was off 15 percent.
Ridership on free skier buses, which the Aspen Skiing Co. pays for through a special contract, was down 11 percent for 2009. One of the few areas that showed an increase last year was the Maroon Bells service, which increased 7 percent.
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