The party’s not over on RFTA buses; discreet drinkers won’t be bothered |

The party’s not over on RFTA buses; discreet drinkers won’t be bothered

The Roaring Fork Transportation Authority’s alcohol policy on the public bus system will remain the same despite a spirited debate Thursday by its board of directors.

RFTA prohibits riders from boarding with open containers of alcohol. However, passengers who pop a top or open a bottle and drink discreetly once they are on a bus typically aren’t disturbed. Passengers that create a disturbance — whether or not they are intoxicated — are thrown off the bus.

The issue came before the directors Thursday as part of the board’s plan to review a broad range of policies in coming months — from financial practices to use of the Rio Grande Trail. The RFTA staff recommended keeping the alcohol policy as is and not making bus drivers perform as “hall monitors” while they need to keep their eyes on the road.

If RFTA adopted a policy prohibiting alcohol on the bus, the drivers would field complaints from passengers snitching on other passengers who were drinking, predicted Kent Blackmer, RFTA’s co-director of operations. He said he did not want to see drivers get dragged into a fracas. Safety of the drivers is his top concern, he said.

“As a passenger, sometimes it’s not pleasant sitting next to someone who is drinking alcohol or even eating Kentucky Fried Chicken.”

RFTA board chairman George Newman

RFTA allows passengers to eat and drink on buses, so it would be difficult for drivers to ascertain who was drinking beer and who was drinking soda. “That’s what we’re struggling with — the enforcement,” said Blackmer’s colleague, co-operations director John Hocker.

But Pitkin County Commissioner and RFTA board chairman George Newman said the policy was inconsistent and sends a mixed message because people are prohibited from bringing open booze on a bus but are allowed to drink if they open it on the bus.

The bus system serves a diverse group of customers, including families, kids and seniors, Newman said. He felt it was best to ban all consumption of alcohol.

“As a passenger, sometimes it’s not pleasant sitting next to someone who is drinking alcohol or even eating Kentucky Fried Chicken,” Newman said. He noted that some foods give off odors that are unappealing to other passengers.

RFTA board member and New Castle Mayor Art Riddile concurred that the alcohol policy should be consistent. If RFTA allows passengers to drink alcohol after they enter a bus, “You might as well be encouraging it — set up a bar in the back of the bus and make money,” Riddile said.

But other RFTA board members were lukewarm about changing the policy. RFTA director and Carbondale trustee Ben Bohmfalk said it seemed like RFTA had a solution looking for a problem. He didn’t want the board to change the policy unless it was demonstrated there is a problem.

RFTA director and Basalt Town Council member Bernie Grauer said he didn’t see the wisdom of adding a policy that could potentially distract drivers and make a bus trip less safe for all passengers.

Aspen Mayor Steve Skadron lightened the discussion with his observation.

“George — you said it. I’m more offended by the dude eating Kentucky Fried Chicken,” he said.

The board decided to leave the policy alone and revisit if issues arise.

RFTA will continue hiring a private security firm to patrol Ruby Park in Aspen between 10 p.m. and 2 a.m. five nights a week. Anyone with an open container is required to pour it out before entering a bus.

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