Roaring Fork Transportation Authority's (RFTA) bus ridership for the year through November is down about 152,494 or 4.12 percent from the same period last year, according to the agency's latest report.
Ridership on valleywide commuter service is slightly ahead of last year's pace, but the number of riders on Aspen service is lagging and Glenwood Springs' ridership plummeted after a fare started being collected.
Although December's numbers aren't available yet, it appears 2012 will return RFTA to a pattern of falling ridership. RFTA registered a 6.27 percent increase last year after big losses in passengers the prior two years.
Through November this year, RFTA has hauled 3.55 million passengers compared to 3.70 million last year over the same period, according to the report.
Regional Highway 82 service is up by 29,310 passengers or 1.72 percent. However, ridership in the city of Aspen is down 36,823 or 3.77 percent. Ride Glenwood Springs' ridership is down 177,076 or nearly 43 percent through November, the report showed.
Bus service to Maroon Bells was hopping last summer. There were 101,172 passengers carried on the service. That's 16,624 or about 20 percent more than the prior summer. In other areas, Grand Hogback bus ridership was up slightly through November, ridership on free skier shuttles paid for by Aspen Skiing Co. was up 2.5 percent, and X Games RFTA service and charter service was up.
Falling gas prices and the relatively mild winter thus far could make it difficult for RFTA to get back on track. President and CEO Dan Blankenship said in previous interviews that ridership is largely influenced by gas prices and weather. High prices and snowy weather spur people to ride buses, he said.
The state of the economy also influences ridership, according to Blankenship. History shows a strong local economy translates into higher ridership.
RFTA plans to start expanded service with its Veloci-RFTA service starting in September 2013.