RFTA bus ridership reaches new high
CARBONDALE ” Snowfall wasn’t the only record that fell in December.
People rode buses in the Roaring Fork Valley at a record clip last month, the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority reported Thursday. There were just more than 200,000 passengers for service along Highway 82 and to Snowmass Village, RFTA Executive Director Dan Blankenship said. “That’s a 5.6 percent increase over last year,” he said.
It’s no coincidence that ridership soared as the snow fell. RFTA experiences a spike in ridership of 5 to 10 percent on any day that a snowstorm hits, Blankenship said. That produced consistent spikes in December ” a month when Snowmass Ski Area set a record for snowfall and Aspen Mountain came within inches.
But the surge in RFTA’s ridership goes beyond snow and poor driving conditions. There was a “perfect storm” of factors this winter, according to Blankenship, including higher parking fines in Aspen, reduced parking in Snowmass Village and brisk business throughout the valley.
Record ridership has a downside, however. “RFTA has received a number of complaints this winter season regarding overcrowding,” Blankenship wrote in a report to the organization’s board of directors, which met in Carbondale.
Conditions like those in December create a management headache because demand changes so drastically from day to day, Blankenship said. RFTA has every available driver covering shifts and waiting in reserve, but it is six to eight employees short. State regulations also limit driver shift lengths and the total number of hours they can work in a week.
Unfortunately, Blankenship said, standing-room-only conditions might persist throughout the winter simply because the organization has reached its capacity.
RFTA set a record by hauling more than 4 million passengers last year on its service that extends from Aspen to Rifle.
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