Smaller Circulator hits Carbondale streets | PostIndependent.com

Smaller Circulator hits Carbondale streets

The new, smaller Carbondale Circulator will be quieter than regular RFTA buses as it passes through the town's core.

The new, smaller Carbondale Circulator will be quieter than regular RFTA buses as it passes through the town's core.

A new Carbondale Circulator has hit the streets and has been scaled down for a more comfortable fit in the small town.

The new Circulator is a 26-passenger van made from combining a Ford F550 and a Glaval van body, according to the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority.

RFTA previously used a 40-foot-long bus that seated up to 36. The new van is 33 feet long, with space for up to another 15 people to stand in case of the rarity of passenger demand exceeding seating, said Dan Blankenship, RFTA chief executive officer.

RFTA downsized the Circulator for several reasons, “but mainly because the scale of the van is a better fit for the Carbondale commercial core,” he said.

On most Circulator trips, the larger bus had way too many seats, and ridership has been down by about 10 percent this year, he said.

Last year the Carbondale Circulator transported nearly 182,000 passengers, while this year the number is closer to 160,000.

“Based on the information we had, we felt that 24 to 26 seats is more than adequate to meet passenger demand,” Blankenship said. And because the route is relatively short, it shouldn’t be an issue if some passengers have to stand, he said.

“The operating costs are only marginally lower than a bus because most of the operating cost is associated with the cost of the driver,” Blankenship added.

The van cost about $170,000, for which RFTA obtained a $96,000 Federal Transit Administration grant for $96,000 administered through the Colorado Department of Transportation. The van was also upgraded with a compressed natural gas engine, and RFTA was able to pay for that retrofit with a $34,000 grant from the state Department of Local Affairs.

The van also runs quieter than the bus, which will benefit the neighborhoods along the route, said Blankenship.

One of the biggest complaints RFTA gets from the public is the noise of buses running through residential areas, he said. “So we think the van is going to be a very welcome change.”

RFTA will keep a full-sized bus as backup if the van is sidelined, and RFTA local buses will serve the Carbondale commercial core after 8:41 p.m. and on weekends during the off season when the Circulator isn’t running.

The town was supportive of the switch, but it did not contribute any money for the new van, said Town Manager Jay Harrington. Carbondale did however organize the van’s paint job.

To decorate the new vehicle Carbondale Arts enlisted some middle school labor. From a project including artwork submissions from 130 students, 20 art sketches of humanized animals were selected to adorn the new circulator.