Security keeps peace on ‘Vomit Comet’ |

Security keeps peace on ‘Vomit Comet’

Scott Condon

Aspen, CO ColoradoThe “Vomit Comets” might remain a little more secure this year.The Roaring Fork Transportation Authority allocated $25,000 to retain a private security firm to place workers on late-night, weekend bus routes. RFTA hired First Line Security on a trial basis for the last two months of 2006 to try to stem incidents with unruly riders, who were often drunk.The trial worked well enough that RFTA staff sought funding from the board of directors for security for all of 2007, according to Kent Blackmer, RFTA’s co-director of operations. The board obliged.”Is it seamless? No. Is it better than it was? Yes,” Blackmer said about the security’s effects on bad behavior. First Line is diligently working with its staff to find recruits best suited to dealing with problems on the buses, he said. The security officers cannot make arrests and they must be able to avoid confrontation, Blackmer said. Not everyone has the right temperament to handle touchy situations.The trial occurred during the fall off-season “when the rowdiness” ebbed, Blackmer said. The thick of winter is giving the security workers a full taste of what can happen.A security officer is placed regularly at the Rubey Park transit center in Aspen during weekend nights. Security also is supplied on some late-night buses on Fridays and Saturdays that travel between Aspen and the intercept lot at Brush Creek Road, and between Aspen and El Jebel.Those routes unofficially are known as Vomit Comets because riders have often imbibed and a few have been known to hurl.When Blackmer discussed the need for security with RFTA’s board of directors last fall, he said three drivers had been assaulted over the prior year. Bus drivers also regularly deal with “people passed out, unable to walk, fighting, hassling other passengers,” Blackmer explained at the time.The presence of a security officer was intended to make drunks and other unruly riders behave, and let drivers concentrate on the road. RFTA has a “zero tolerance” policy, which means if a person cannot care for themselves or poses a threat to the driver or other passengers, the driver will call the cops.Scott Condon’s e-mail address is