The number of riders taking the bus on the Grand Hogback Route between Glenwood Springs and Rifle increased significantly in December, and ridership for all of 2013 was up by about 15 percent, based on preliminary figures from the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority.
Heavy snowfall and an early December cold snap that plummeted temperatures below zero were likely one reason for the late surge in ridership on the bus route, RFTA General Manager and CEO Dan Blankenship said.
Based on the preliminary numbers, RFTA counted more than 11,000 riders on Hogback buses in December, said Blankenship, who cautioned that the year-end numbers are still being reviewed and could change.
In any case, it’s still likely to be somewhat more than the 5,267 riders counted in December of 2012, and more than the 5,726 riders in the prior month of November, he said.
For 2013 as a whole, total ridership on the Hogback route is expected to come in around 75,000, up about 15 percent from the roughly 65,000 riders counted in 2012.
The Grand Hogback line primarily serves morning and evening commuters traveling from points west of Glenwood Springs who want to connect to the new Bus Rapid Transit and local buses running up the Roaring Fork Valley toward Aspen.
But requests for more midday service have prompted RFTA to add one additional afternoon bus run along the Colorado River corridor, Blankenship told Garfield County commissioners earlier this week.
“We have had a lot of requests for additional service in the middle part of the day,” he said. Because the western-most RFTA line is geared more toward commuters, there has been a gap in midday service.
“That can be inconvenient for people who just want to make a trip to Glenwood Springs to get to the doctor or to go shopping,” Blankenship said.
Previously, there was a gap between the 9:15 a.m. bus leaving Rifle toward Glenwood until 4 p.m. The newest bus run leaves Rifle Metro Park at 1:15 p.m. and arrives in Glenwood at 1:55 p.m.
Garfield County commissioners agreed Monday to renew $650,000 in funding for RFTA to continue the Grand Hogback route, which it operates under an agreement with the county. The route has been in existence since 2002.
It costs RFTA about $936,000 per year to operate the west-end route. Additional funding comes from the city of Rifle, and the portion of the regional transportation district sales tax that comes from New Castle. The unincorporated portions of Garfield County, Silt and Rifle are not part of the district.
RFTA did receive a $200,000 grant from the Garfield County Federal Mineral Lease District recently to help build a new park-and-ride facility in New Castle.
Blankenship said RFTA is planning to include Hogback riders in a passenger survey this year to get a better sense of where they’re headed and why.