Valley transit changes: RTA a go
Voters in Glenwood Springs and Carbondale have come out in favor of the proposal to form an RTA.
The final results on the RTA, a special taxing district known as a Rural Transportation Authority, trickled in late Friday evening as the Garfield County Clerk and Recorder’s Office finished counting the ballots from Tuesday’s election.
The question passed by a comfortable margin in Carbondale, where it won with support from 64 percent of voters, 1,061 to 600. It was much closer in Glenwood, passing by an 83-vote margin – 1,732 for the RTA and 1,649 against.
“There just aren’t the feelings about mass transit down here as there are in other parts of the valley,” said Glenwood Springs City Councilwoman Mary Steinbrecher. “This is a real milestone for the valley to do this. I’m looking forward to starting the process and seeing where it takes us.”
The results in Carbondale and Glenwood assure that the new district will take responsibility for mass transit throughout the valley, replacing RFTA, the existing bus agency. Service is expected to expand throughout the valley, with buses running every half-hour between Glenwood and Aspen, and every 15 minutes between El Jebel and Aspen during peak hours in the winter.
Supporters of the RTA were on the edge of their seats all last week as they waited for the results from the two downvalley communities. Voters in Pitkin County, Basalt and unincorporated Eagle County also came out in favor of the plan; the results in those jurisdictions were available a few hours after the polls closed Tuesday night.
The count in Garfield County was plagued with delays all week long. The count of about 8,000 absentee and early voting ballots did not begin until late Tuesday afternoon, according to sources familiar with the situation at the county courthouse, and it turned out many of those needed to be refolded before being fed into the machine. Then it was discovered that the ballots were not counted by precinct, so the county clerk had no way of knowing if the RTA question passed in one or both communities. It wasn’t until Friday that the clerk and recorder had the software necessary to separate the results by precinct.
But now that they know it passed in both communities, the only question facing RTA backers concerns timing.
“It’s definitely happening,” said Alice Hubbard, who directed much of the work on the agreement between governments that set up last week’s ballot question. “If Glenwood Springs hadn’t voted in, everyone would have had to get together and decide whether to go forward or not.”
Glenwood was considered particularly important because the taxes raised there with the new 0.4 percent sales tax are expected to cover more than 20 percent of the annual costs. Beginning Jan. 1, taxes in Carbondale and Basalt will also be going up, 0.5 percent and 0.2 percent respectively, to pay for the RTA. Aspen voters agreed to a new hotel bed tax to ensure that local service remains viable.
“Every transportation question in the valley passed – the tax increase for ride Glenwood, the bed tax, the $10.2 million bond in Pitkin County and the RTA. I think it shows people want solutions,” Hubbard said.
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Had Hailey Swirbul decided against going to Europe, she would not have finished with a career-best result in Friday’s World Cup opener. Yes, there was a time, and not long ago, when the U.S. ski team member and Roaring Fork Valley native questioned her desire to put on a race bib.