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A four-letter solution to rising gas prices in Garfield County? RFTA

Bobbie Mortensen rides a RFTA bus in May.
Ray K. Erku / Post Independent

A RFTA bus seat is helping Bobbie Mortensen get back on her feet.

It’s a benefit the 37-year-old commuter underscored as she stood beside a Rifle Park and Ride bus station on a brisk, 39-degree morning in May. It was 6:42 a.m., and the morning sun illuminated the chalk white cliffs of Roan Plateau as she tightly clenched her windbreaker.

The next bus scheduled to arrive on Roaring Fork Transportation Authority’s Hogback line was 6:50 a.m. Final morning bus departs at 9:20 a.m.



Mortensen needed to get to Glenwood Springs, where a work crew for an interior stucco job awaited.

“I’m glad we have the bus,” she said. “How else would I get to work?”



Eight blocks north on Railroad Avenue, a handful of vehicles crowded the pumps at a local gas station, lured in by a discount for customers who pay in cash.

Mortensen used to drive a Chrysler 300, which is now totaled. The former Denver resident said she’s also dealing with legal troubles.

Bobbie Mortensen goes aboard a RFTA bus at a Rifle station in May.
Ray K. Erku / Post Independent

She currently shares a bedroom with another adult at a nearby halfway house, and she’s been getting dropped off every morning at Rifle Park and Ride.

“I wake up at 5 a.m. just to go do this job,” she said, “But the other job? I wake up at 7 a.m.”

Mortensen does commercial and residential painting on weekdays. Weekends, she bartends in Glenwood Springs.

Upvalley jobs like these are where the money is, she said.

“There’s not very many jobs here that are good paying,” Mortensen said.

RIDE RFTA

For $4, Hogback passengers like Mortensen can catch a lift 25 miles from Rifle to Glenwood Springs. If they pay more, commuters can continue on as far upvalley as Aspen. Rides, however, are cheaper if you buy bus tickets from electronic kiosks.

RFTA has elicited praise from U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg, who personally rode the bus earlier this year.

@RFTA is one of the largest rural transit authorities in the nation, and they’re pioneering electric vehicle technology in their bus fleets,” Buttigeig tweeted. “A great example of how important modern transit is to connecting workers in rural areas.”

Each day RFTA takes hundreds of people to and from work. In fact, 2021 alone yielded at least 3.19 million passengers, a downtick from 5.46 million in 2019.

More recently, the Colorado and Roaring Fork valleys’ public transportation system reported it may have to reduce services by 7%, cutting daily bus trips by 72 rides this summer. Officials say a tight labor market is being caused by a lack of affordable housing.

Then there are gas prices. One gas station in downtown Aspen showed $5.49 a gallon on June 2. Glenwood Springs stations range anywhere between $4.29 and $4.59.

ENJOY THE RIDE

The clock struck 6:50 a.m., and the Hogback line was right on time. Mortensen climbed aboard and curled into a seat toward the back of the bus. She then put on headphones and scrolled through her smartphone as the bus headed east on U.S. Highway 6.

About 20 passengers were on board at this time. Once the bus made stops in Silt and New Castle, there were at least 25 passengers by 7:15 a.m. This included six students headed to schools in Glenwood Springs.

Moments later, the bus is gliding beside the Colorado River on Interstate 70.

Mortensen said she has about a month left before she can leave the halfway house. And before she stepped off the bus in Glenwood Springs, she called the valley’s public transportation service a “stepping stone.”

“I’m going to have my own environment, my own life,” she said.

RIDE RFTA

• The Roaring Fork Transportation Authority serves and has stops in the communities of Rifle, Silt, New Castle, Glenwood Springs, Carbondale, El Jebel, Basalt, Snowmass Village and Aspen.

• There are also stops across Colorado Highway 82 in the Roaring Fork Valley, while shuttle services to Maroon Bells are available in spring and summer.

BIKES

• Bikes are allowed to be loaded on RFTA buses from 6 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. mid-April through Labor Day; 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. the day after Labor Day through the last Saturday of October.; 7 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. last Sunday of October through mid-November. No bikes are allowed through the winter season. Loading bikes costs $2 extra.

SNOWBOARDS/SKIS

• Loading of skis and snowboards are allowed free of charge on all RFTA routes in the winter season, which typically runs from Thanksgiving to mid April.

TICKET VENDING MACHINES LOCATIONS

• Rubey Park Transit Center, Aspen

• Buttermilk down valley station, Aspen

• Airport/ABC Down vdalley station, Pitkin County

• Brush Creek Park & Ride, Pitkin County

• Basalt Park & Ride up valley & down valley stations, Basalt

• Willits up valley station, El Jebel

• El Jebel up valley & down valley stations, El Jebel

• Carbondale Park & Ride, Carbondale

• Glenwood Springs 27th Street Station, Glenwood Springs

BUS FARES

• Costs range from free to $8 per ride depending on if you’re riding in town or going to other municipalities.

HOURS OF OPERATION

• Westbound and eastbound routes for the Grand Hogback line run anywhere from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. seven days a week.

• Northbound and southbound routes for routes in the Roaring Fork Valley run anywhere from early morning to late night seven days a week.

To schedule your next trip, visit https://www.rfta.com/

Reporter Ray K. Erku can be reached at 612-423-5273 or rerku@postindependent.com.


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