RFTA rides to the rescue during Democratic convention
September 9, 2008
ASPEN ” The Roaring Fork Transportation Authority will never be accused of throwing Barack Obama under the bus.
The operator of the Roaring Fork Valley’s bus system answered the call when the Democrats sought buses to help with transportation at their national convention in Denver on Aug. 25-29.
“For us it wasn’t a political consideration, it was a financial one,” said Dan Blankenship, RFTA’s chief executive officer.
Denver’s RTD system rented what buses it could spare to a transportation company contracted for the convention. When more buses were needed, a RTD employee suggested they call RFTA.
RFTA rented 11 buses for $1,000 each per day, securing a $96,000 check in advance, according to Blankenship. The deal was actually for 12 buses for eight days, but one bus got a flat and couldn’t make the trip. The loss of that bus was offset because the rest of the fleet was kept for extra time.
The buses were used to shuttle convention attendees between accommodations and the venues (and probably a few bars in between). The buses were picked up the Thursday before the convention started to be checked for bombs and other security risks, according to RFTA communications manager Sylvia Cranmer.
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RFTA’s only expense was the travel costs to and from Denver, so most of the $96,000 was profit. The Democrats had to find drivers to get the buses to and fro. More deals like that, Blankenship said, and RFTA’s budget challenges would be solved.
RFTA didn’t supply drivers or mechanics for the convention because it needed all hands on deck for the Labor Day weekend concerts in Snowmass Village, which requires extra bus service. Leasing the buses didn’t effect RFTA’s service levels in the Roaring Fork Valley, Blankenship said. The demand for buses is greatest during winters.
RFTA had to be careful to provide buses purchased with local funds only ” no federal funding ” so it wouldn’t run afoul of Federal Transit Administration rules. The FTA frowns on buses it helps purchase getting involved in certain activities like party conventions, Blankenship said.
The Democrats apparently were a well-behaved bunch. The interior of the buses were much cleaner than conditions after a night of “vomit comet” service to and from Aspen on a Saturday night, RFTA officials said. A broken window and some cracked mirrors were the only problems.