Andersen: Yes to RFTA buses and free bikes |

Andersen: Yes to RFTA buses and free bikes

It pays to get old in the Roaring Fork Valley, especially as a senior citizen chauffeured around for free on Roaring Fork Transportation Authority buses. That makes me totally biased in supporting the ballot issue (“yes” on 7A), and for reasons that go beyond my own selfish interests.

It’s hard to imagine valley transit without RFTA, but if you lived in the Roaring Fork Valley before the bus system gained the reach it has today, RFTA is a godsend. Under Dan Blankenship’s seasoned leadership, RFTA has grown to meet vital community needs.

Starting decades ago with just a few ski buses serving Snowmass, Highlands and Buttermilk, RFTA now reaches all the way to Rifle with a frequent schedule that matches or exceeds urban areas of much larger populations. As the commuter workforce has migrated farther downvalley, so has the bus system that serves them and the Aspen workforce.

Today, the attractive option of leaving the car at home and riding the bus has become a reality for three counties and half a dozen municipalities as a means of addressing traffic congestion.

In addition to serving as an antidote to gridlock, RFTA also serves as a link, stitching the valley closer together with reliable service in all seasons.

A “yes” vote for RFTA will continue funding the authority’s essential services for the Roaring Fork Valley and beyond. If you’re not a bus rider, you’re missing a great service, especially if you’re a senior.

For me, riding RFTA allows time to regroup, check emails with free Wi-Fi, or just sit back and gaze out the window at a fisherman on the Roaring Fork, a bald eagle perched on a spruce snag, or a herd of wintering elk.

RFTA is like a library for me. Instead of driving with white-knuckle focus behind the wheel during rush hour on Highway 82, I read. In the 20 minutes or so it takes between Basalt and Aspen, there’s time to scan a magazine, skim the local papers, or fixate on a novel.

Only with the perspective of riding the bus do I appreciate how driving my car is a waste of time, money and effort. And then there’s parking.

On RFTA, parking isn’t an issue. I’m never circling Aspen looking for a space to wedge in my vehicle, pay the meter, and keep an eye on the ticking clock while rushing around town to accomplish whatever.

Getting around Aspen is a convenient pleasure with the best free option of all: the We-Cycle bike program. This is the brainchild of Myrte Mallory, to whom I and many other We-Cycle users owe thanks for our in-town mobility.

We-Cycle is sponsored by the city of Aspen, the town of Basalt and Eagle County as a free service that offers bikes at stations from Aspen to El Jebel. Assuming voters approve 7A, the free bike system will expand to Carbondale and Glenwood Springs.

With your cellphone and the We-Cycle transit app., bikes are free for the first half hour. The cell phone app issues a combination to the locks at bike stations, and presto! You’re riding across town in minutes to another bike station where you lock up the bike and continue on your car-free way.

As a long-ago supporter of rail for the Roaring Fork, I was disappointed when the numbers didn’t pencil. But in lieu of the choo-choo, RFTA buses serve as a convenient solution to valley transit that makes sense in a narrow corridor with bus-only lanes that bypass strings of gridlocked cars.

The one-person-per-car progression is a head-scratcher while the bus zooms by and delivers you pretty much anywhere you want to go. Driving a car is habitual for many, but after riding the bus and a free bike, the auto addiction is quickly and easily broken.

RFTA also is an antidote to road rage and stress, easing the commute while getting you where you’re going on time and in relative ease and comfort. RFTA and We-Cycle offer a respite from the freeway mentality that literally absorbs lives behind the wheel.

Vote YES on 7A and keep valley transit alive.

Paul Andersen’s column appears on Mondays. He may be reached at:

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