RFTA helping light the way for riders | AspenTimes.com

RFTA helping light the way for riders

Jeremy Heiman
Carbondale correspondent
Aspen CO, Colorado
niteize.comRFTA will be handing out 250 hand-held illuminated wands, such as the one pictured here, free to season pass holders this week.

ASPEN ” Being seen and being safe are things that should concern Roaring Fork Transportation Authority riders who use the agency’s regional buses in the darkness of early morning or in the evening.

Some riders have to cross Highway 82 to get home from RFTA stops, while others have to navigate dark parking lots and streets.

So RFTA officials have found a product they hope will help their riders stay safe at night. It’s a handheld illuminated wand, about 6 or 7 inches long, that can be seen from a mile away. The wand can serve as a small flashlight, and it also has a strobe light for emergency situations.

“We’re giving them to our regional riders who are buying a season pass,” said Kent Blackmer, co-director of operations for RFTA.

The agency bought 250 lights, for $7.60 each, to give away. They will likely will be available to season pass holders at the Rubey Park Transit Center in Aspen starting Tuesday.

The idea of offering them to season pass purchasers, he said, is that regional riders are the most likely to be out at night, and season pass holders are expected to be the most frequent RFTA riders. RFTA’s regional service extends from Aspen to Rifle.

There have been several pedestrian fatalities on Highway 82 in recent years, Blackmer said, and RFTA is concerned about the safety of its passengers. Night driving is dangerous when pedestrians are involved. Drivers can’t see them in time to decelerate from highway speeds, and it’s hard for pedestrians to judge the speed of an oncoming car when all that is visible are the headlights.

“We’re putting out a flier that explains why we want people to take these,” Blackmer said. “But [we’re] asking them not to take them if they have no intention of using them.”

He said the flier will be in English and Spanish.

RFTA hopes the light wands will catch on, and expects to sell them at cost if they do.

“The thought is we’ll see how well people take to these things when they’re complimentary,” Blackmer said. “We hope bus riders will see those who have them, and that will create a heightened sense of awareness of the danger that exists.”

RFTA officials will want to have a sense of whether the lights are actually being used before they commit money to keeping an inventory of the devices.

The lights, made by a Boulder company called Nite Ize, are battery-powered, and illuminated by LEDs, Blackmer said. The active part is a 2-inch insert that can be turned on and sealed into the wand. When sealed, the device is waterproof.

“I’ve actually gone out with this device at night, and it’s a heck of a lot more visible than a flashlight,” Blackmer said.

Season passes will also be sold at Rubey Park through Wednesday, and will be available Friday and thereafter at RFTA’s Aspen maintenance facility across from the Aspen airport.

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