Public bus system likely headed to record ridership in Roaring Fork Valley | PostIndependent.com
Scott Condon
The Aspen Times

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Public bus system likely headed to record ridership in Roaring Fork Valley

A Roaring Fork Transportation Authority bus exchanges passengers at the Intercept Lot at Highway 82 and Brush Creek Road in 2016. Ridership topped 5 million for the first time in 2016.

The Roaring Fork Valley's public bus system is likely headed to record ridership this year but it will have an asterisk next to it — similar to a pro baseball player who hit a record number of home runs in a season during the steroid era.

Roaring Fork Transportation Authority CEO Dan Blankenship said ridership is bound to soar during a 95-day period after the Grand Avenue bridge closes in Glenwood Springs on Aug. 14. Service will be free and more frequent than normal between Glenwood and Parachute-Battlement Mesa during the bridge closure. It's a major part of an effort to reduce traffic by at least 35 percent during the closure.

"I think we'll see record ridership during that period," Blankenship said.

Even without that onslaught of ridership, RFTA is racking up an impressive year. Systemwide ridership was up 4.75 percent January through May compared to the same period last year.

Ridership on the Bus Rapid Transit — the bread-and-butter service that is more frequent and makes fewer stops than other buses between Glenwood and Aspen — is up by about 17,500 passengers, or 5 percent, through May to 366,164.

Ridership on all valleywide service is up 32,200 to 724,171.

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When all service is tallied, RFTA is up by 110,000 passengers to 2,429,689 through May.

RFTA exceeded 5 million riders for the first time last year, establishing a record. There were 5.12 million riders through the year. That was an increase of nearly 280,000, or 5.78 percent.

scondon@aspentimes.com