ASPEN - Ridership on the Roaring Fork Valley's bus system is down 4.1 percent year over year through July even though the economy is picking up.
The Roaring Fork Transportation Authority reported it has hauled 108,506 fewer people year-to-date through July in 2012 compared with the same period last year. The agency's total ridership was 2.54 million compared with 2.64 million through July last year.
The biggest loss was in the Ride Glenwood Springs program, which has hauled 92,150 fewer passengers so far this year, a decline of about 34 percent. Glenwood Springs started charging a fare in April after seven years of free rides.
Ridership on city of Aspen service was down 25,680 through July, RFTA reported. That's a decrease of 3.6 percent.
Regional service between Aspen and points farther downvalley is about flat with 2011. There have been 1.14 million passengers on commuter service through July. That's down 2,356 or less than 1 percent from last year's total through July.
One bright spot for RFTA has been service to the Maroon Bells. There were 43,659 passengers on the seasonal service through July compared with 31,831 for the same period in 2011. That's an increase of 11,828 riders or 37 percent.
RFTA's ridership is usually influenced by the weather and economy. During mild winters, such as 2011-12, commuters tend to drive more often. RFTA also experienced its highest ridership numbers, exceeding 4 million, when the economy was humming along in the mid-2000s, before the recession.
Aspen's economy is ramping up again, but that hasn't produced an increase in bus ridership so far this year. Sales tax revenues in Aspen were up 5.3 percent in July, and they are up nearly 9 percent year-to-date through July.
While bus ridership is down a modest amount, vehicle trips into and out of Aspen are up slightly this year. There has been a daily average of 22,258 round trips through August, as measured near the intersection of Highway 82 and Cemetery Lane. That is up 2.03 percent from last year, according to a report by the city's Transportation Department.