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A whole new animal enters transit scene

Kelley Cox Post Independent
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The Roaring Fork Transportation Authority is officially breaking ground Saturday on a $46.4 million project that it claims will revolutionize its bus service in the valley.

RFTA is creating the first rural bus rapid transit system in the country with a combination of federal and local funds. The new service was unofficially dubbed “RFTA on steroids” early in the planning process. Now it is officially known as VelociRFTA, and 18 new buses will feature a Velociraptor-type dinosaur logo.

New, inviting stations will be built between Glenwood Springs and Aspen, some of them with parking lots. Once operating, the buses will make fewer stops than they currently do. Electronic ticketing is expected to speed loading of passengers. Low profiles of the buses will improve boarding and exiting. Buses also will be equipped with technology that lets them trigger traffic signals to give buses a quicker green light.



“It’s going to be fast. It’s going to be genuinely competitive with the car, unlike our current service,” said Dawn Chase, RFTA marketing, communications and design manager.

The goal will be for VelociRFTA buses to make the trip between Aspen and Glenwood Springs in one hour.



Gould Construction was awarded the contract to build the stations. Work has started but an official groundbreaking will be at noon today at the park-and-ride in Carbondale. It’s open to the public, and the first 1,000 people will receive free food from the Hickory House in Aspen. Attendees are urged to park at the Subway bus stop, Main Street and Highway 133, or at the Colorado Rocky Mountain School campus and take a shuttle to the event.

Federal Transit Administrator Peter Rogoff will speak at the groundbreaking.

Following are some of the key features of the project and the system it will create:

• Name: VelociRFTA

• Branding: RFTA wants to convey that a whole new animal in public transit is coming to the valley. The buses that are part of the new project will be distinctive from those RFTA uses for its local service. The new buses will have a logo featuring a dinosaur to capture attention. The branding concept was enhanced by the prolific discovery of prehistoric fossils at Snowmass Village, Chase said.

• Funding: RFTA received a $25 million grant from the Federal Transit Administration. Voters in RFTA’s membership jurisdictions, all towns from Aspen to New Castle as well as Pitkin and Eagle counties, approved bonding to cover the balance. The bonds will be paid from sales and use taxes.

• Buses: 18 low-floor buses will be purchased with engines altered to run on compressed natural gas. The buses and infrastructure to fuel them will cost $16.51 million.

• Stations: Most of the RFTA bus stops currently feature a small shelter that provides minimal relief from the weather and no bathrooms or other amenities. The VelociRFTA project will feature 14 new stations at nine locations. The sites with the highest use will be 21st-century facilities, with protection from the sun, rain and snow. They will include bathrooms, public art and gathering places, Wi-Fi Internet service, ticket vending machines, and food and drink vending machines. The new stations, with at least a basic station, will be at South Glenwood Springs; Carbondale Park and Ride; El Jebel, upvalley and downvalley stops; Willits, upvalley and downvalley stops; Basalt Park and Ride, upvalley and downvalley stops; Brush Creek Park-and-Ride; Aspen Airport Business Center, upvalley and downvalley stops; Buttermilk Park-and-Ride, upvalley and downvalley stops; and Rubey Park Transit Center in Aspen.

• Intelligent Transportation System: Technology relays real-time information regarding bus arrivals to the stations so riders aren’t in the dark. Computer-aided dispatching will help the bus agency respond better to traffic congestion and other sources of delays.

• Road improvements: Traffic signal modifications will be made to give buses priority at certain high-congestion areas. For example, if a bus approaches a red light, it can speed the process to a green light. VelociRFTA buses also will take advantage of existing high-occupancy vehicle lanes on Highway 82.

• Routes: VelociRFTA buses will operate on Highway 82 from South Glenwood Springs to Aspen with only a short diversion to the park-and-ride facility in Carbondale, just off Highway 133. The park-and-ride lot in El Jebel will be moved from the Crawford family land near El Jebowl to the main intersection on the highway.

• Frequency: It is estimated the VelociRFTA service will operate at least 14 hours per weekday and possibly longer on weekends. During morning and afternoon peaks, buses will operate every 10 minutes. During off-hours, buses will run every 15 minutes. Service might be altered for “shoulder seasons.” RFTA will continue to operate its “local service,” with frequent stops, and coordinate it with the new service.

• Fares: They haven’t been determined.

• Launch date: VelociRFTA buses are supposed to be rolling by September 2013.

scondon@aspentimes.com


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