State awards $1 million for area transit upgrades | AspenTimes.com

State awards $1 million for area transit upgrades

Janet Urquhart
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

ASPEN – Technology improvements for Roaring Fork Transportation Authority buses, as well as buses in Aspen, Snowmass Village and Glenwood Springs, received $1 million in state funding, the Colorado Department of Transportation announced Tuesday.

The state Transportation Commission, meeting last week in Denver, awarded nearly $21 million in FASTER funds for statewide and regional transportation projects that ranged from renovations to Denver’s Union Station to construction of a park-and-ride lot in Leadville.

The $1 million awarded locally will assist with technological upgrades for RFTA, which operates regional buses on a 70-mile corridor between Aspen and Rifle; for the in-town bus systems within Aspen, Snowmass and Glenwood; and for the Eagle County Regional Transportation Authority, or ECO Transit.

The FASTER (Funding Advancement for Surface Transportation and Economic Recovery) grant will be divvied up, with $457,500 going to RFTA; $377,506 to the city of Aspen; $86,494 to Glenwood Springs; $43,500 to Snowmass Village; and $35,000 to ECO Transit. Each entity will put up matching funds of various amounts, totaling nearly $1.3 million. In RFTA’s case, the match is slightly more than $1 million.

The money will go to scheduling software, an automated vehicle location/computer-assisted dispatching system, real-time arrival signs that let passengers waiting at stops know exactly when the next bus will pull up, and automated fare collection.

“My sense is, in 2012 is when some of the benefits of these technologies will become apparent to RFTA users,” said Dan Blankenship, the agency’s CEO.

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The state funding would dovetail with close to $25 million in hoped-for federal money that RFTA is seeking to help implement Bus Rapid Transit, or BRT, a streamlined bus service that would provide a quicker ride between points in the valley corridor. The federal money for BRT would include construction of eight stations where passengers would find real-time bus information, plus funds for 18 new buses outfitted with electronic fare boxes. Technological upgrades for 24 other buses in the RFTA fleet are also part of that funding request.

The FASTER grant will go toward similar upgrades for yet other buses in the RFTA fleet.

“This is moving us in the right direction,” Blankenship said of Tuesday’s announcement.

The state funding will go not only to RFTA, but also to municipal bus service in Aspen, Snowmass Village and Glenwood Springs, as well as ECO Transit, so all of the bus systems can run on an integrated system.

Though RFTA and ECO Transit don’t currently connect, officials foresee the day when buses operating within the two systems bridge the existing service gap in Glenwood Canyon, linking Glenwood Springs to the west side of Eagle County, according to David Johnson, director of planning for RFTA.

“We’ll hopefully be using the same scheduling software, the same equipment,” he said.

janet@aspentimes.com

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