CARBONDALE - The Roaring Fork Transportation Authority is in the process of constructing 13 new bus stations that have caught the eyes of many observers.
The bus stations, mostly along Highway 82, feature attractive brick and concrete work, several large windows and a chimney that serves as a design feature but is unrelated to heating. The new stations are part of the $46 million bus-rapid-transit expansion, which features the more inviting stations and more frequent service on a fleet of upgraded buses.
Aspen City Councilman Steve Skadron, a member of RFTA's board of directors, asked at a recent board meeting in Carbondale if the stations are, perhaps, too "aesthetically pleasing."
"That's the one piece of grief I get," Skadron said. Some observers have quizzed him on why the stations aren't more plain and - therefore, people assume - less expensive.
Project manager Mike Hermes said the bus stations weren't expensive to build and are just a small fraction of the overall project cost. There are 10 standard stations that cost between $230,000 and $275,000 each, depending on factors such as minor design differences, amount of bicycle parking, lighting elements and number of trash cans, according to Angela Kincade, assistant project manager.
In addition to the standard stations, there are two doubles, in Glenwood Springs and the Brush Creek Road intercept lot. They range in expense from $470,000 to $525,000 depending on variances, according to Kincade.
The Carbondale bus station is considered a "single-and-a-half" by RFTA. The cost there was $360,000.
Once all the stations are constructed, the cost will range between $3.6 million and $4.6 million, based on the estimates Kincade provided.
Hermes said the design was dictated by a couple of factors - safety and the need for the expanded service to be "branded differently." The new service will be dubbed VelociRFTA and feature buses with a logo similar to a velociraptor dinosaur. The new buses are distinct from RFTA's existing buses, many of which will remain in service.
Similarly, the new stations are very distinct from the old stations, some of which will remain in place. The old stations are little more than Plexiglas cubes with a metal frame.
RFTA is trying to convey fast, fun and frequent with the new logo. VelociRFTA buses will travel between Aspen and downvalley towns every 10 to 15 minutes for about 14 hours per day compared to 30-minute separation in existing service, according to RFTA's website.
Hermes said it was important to have stations that are welcoming to people and help entice them to ride the bus.
"You want to be careful not to have the prison look," Hermes said.
The tall glass windows are to make the stations more open and provide a more safe feeling.
"All the glass - you don't want a dark station," he said.
The chimneys will house the electronic and technology components rather than fireplaces, Hermes said.
Five of the new bus stations are complete: Carbondale, Basalt for upvalley service, Brush Creek and both the downvalley and upvalley stations at Buttermilk.
Construction is under way at the major bus stop and parking lot at 27th Street in Glenwood Springs as well as the El Jebel downvalley station.
Work is scheduled to begin in March, weather permitting, at the El Jebel upvalley station, Willits pedestrian underpass of Highway 82 with downvalley and upvalley stations, the Basalt downvalley station and the Aspen Business Center pedestrian underpass with upvalley and downvalley stations.
RFTA plans to start the VelociRFTA service in early September.