Garfield County commits to $500,000 in continued funding for RFTA Hogback route; fare reduction planned | PostIndependent.com
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Garfield County commits to $500,000 in continued funding for RFTA Hogback route; fare reduction planned

The RFTA Grand Hogback route pulls into the New Castle Park and Ride stop during the early evening rush hour.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent

The Roaring Fork Transportation Authority is seeing a return to normal in terms of ridership on its western Garfield County Hogback route between Glenwood Springs and Rifle.

The route connects riders to points in-between and to the Bus Rapid Transit and valley local routes that originate from Glenwood Springs and travel to Aspen and back each day.

RFTA CEO Dan Blankenship reported to Garfield County commissioners last week that the Hogback route is on track to provide about 70,000 rides this year.



That’s up by about 3,000 over the pandemic-altered ridership in 2020, when buses were halted for a period of time, and then bus capacity was limited, he said.

With routes restored and buses back at full capacity this summer, riders have returned. The transit agency is projecting 90,000 rides on the Hogback route in 2022, Blankenship said.



RFTA, through its sales and property tax funding, covers the cost to extend bus service from Glenwood Springs to New Castle. Garfield County has picked up the tab to take buses to Rifle and back.

County commissioners last week agreed to put $500,000 in the 2022 budget to continue that support, as requested.

After RFTA district voters approved a new property tax with the 2018 Destination 2040 measure for capital improvements and increased bus frequency, service to New Castle was ramped up to every half hour during peak times, Blankenship said.

Although the town of New Castle is a member of RFTA, Garfield County as a government entity and the municipalities of Silt, Rifle and Parachute are not. However, the county commissioners have historically supported RFTA financially.

Fare reductions coming

Another result of the Destination 2040 measure will be an across-the-board reduction in bus fares starting this winter, Blankenship also reported.

Fares have remained the same since the winter of 2009-10, when they were hiked to about the limit people were willing to pay, he said.

Fares are to be reduced by $1 per zone this coming year. That means a passenger can ride between Glenwood Springs and Rifle for $4, instead of the current $5 fare.

The fare from Silt to Glenwood will now be $3, and from New Castle to Glenwood, $2.

Likewise, the cost to ride the bus from Glenwood Springs to Aspen will roll back to $5, from the current $7 fare, as it crosses two zones.

A multi-punch pass provides an additional discount to those fares, Blankenship said.

In the middle Roaring Fork Valley, the El Jebel and Basalt zones are also being combined into a single zone. That means free bus rides between El Jebel, where City Market and Willits Center are located, and old town Basalt, Blankenship said, plus a single fare from that combined zone to Aspen.

A bus rider catches the Grand Hogback route at the RFTA New Castle Park and Ride stop.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent

Glenwood Springs is also a single zone, meaning free rides on RFTA buses from West Glenwood to South Glenwood. Ride Glenwood still costs $1 but includes more stops.

Free rides are also offered in Rifle between stops along Highway 6 & 24 and Railroad Avenue.

In addition to the RFTA funding, county commissioners have also earmarked $250,000 for the new Parachute Area Transit System that began in fall 2020, providing a connection to the Hogback buses in Rifle.

Commissioner Mike Samson inquired during the Oct. 18 Board of County Commissioners meeting whether there have been any renewed discussions with Rifle City Council about joining RFTA.

Blankenship said that conversation has not resumed, “but I’m happy to meet with them,” he said.

RFTA membership would entail extending all or some portion of the authority’s taxing structure to Rifle, with voter approval. Or, the city could form its own local transportation authority and then contract with RFTA or another provider for bus service, Blankenship explained.

Rifle voters previously rejected a proposal to join RFTA.

Senior Reporter/Managing Editor John Stroud can be reached at 970-384-9160 or jstroud@citizentelegram.com.


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