RFTA to institute more fare zones
The valley’s bus agency will institute a new seven-zone fare system beginning this winter season, the Roaring Fork Transit Agency’s board of directors unanimously agreed Thursday afternoon.
And though the change may mean increased fares for some riders, its intent is to make fares more equitable throughout the valley, say RFTA officials. A ride from Glenwood Springs to Aspen will remain a $6 cash fare, or $3 with a punch pass.
Presently, RFTA operates under a five-zone fare system: Glenwood Springs, Carbondale, El Jebel, Basalt to Snowmass Village and Aspen. Under the new seven-zone system, the Basalt-to-Snowmass Village zone will be subdivided into three separate zones: Snowmass Village, Brush Creek Road to Gerbazdale, and Old Snowmass to Sagewood.
A ride within any given zone will cost a $1 cash fare, and it will cost another $1 for each additional zone of travel. A ride to Snowmass Village from Aspen will remain at $3 because three zones are involved: Aspen, Snowmass Village, and briefly, the Brush Creek zone.
“It makes more sense from a geographic equity standpoint,” said RFTA General Manager Dan Blankenship. “It’s not going to have a big impact in terms of fare increases, but there are tradeoffs.”
“This puts us in a better position to make any fare increases we do have more equitable,” he added.
Although RFTA is facing a $200,000 to $500,000 budget shortfall this year, RFTA board members have said they oppose fare increases for fear of sparking further declines in ridership. The shortfall is being blamed on declining and flat ridership levels and below-budget sales tax revenues that Blankenship attributes to a poor economic showing in the upper valley last winter.
The RFTA board will take up the expected budget shortfall at its next meeting, in early September. Fare increases, if any, are likely to come out of that meeting, Blankenship said. And if the board chooses to hike fares, the increases would not take effect until the new seven-zone fare system kicks in around Thanksgiving week.
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Aspen voters will be asked to extend a sales tax this fall that supports funding for public schools.