County commissioners support west Garfield’s Grand Hogback bus route
Garfield County continued its support for Roaring Fork Transit Authority’s Hogback line, which provides transport for commuters in Rifle, New Castle and Silt.
The financial support means western Garfield County residents will continue to have a public transportation option to and from Glenwood Springs and its Roaring Fork Valley bus connections in the mornings and evenings.
RFTA’s request for $760,240 to support the Hogback route was approved by the commissioners Monday.
While the line currently has early morning pickup times in each western Garfield County location, as well as evening pickup times, there’s a big gap in midday with less westbound options available than eastbound routes.
RFTA CEO Dan Blankenship said he hopes to expand the route to fill in some of the gaps in the schedule, in addition to system improvements planned as part of the mill levy and bond issue that was approved by RFTA taxing district voters in November.
The last eastbound time from Rifle leaves Cottonwood Park at 9:23 a.m. and will not return until pickup times start again in the afternoon at 4:13 p.m., according to the RFTA schedule.
Westbound from Glenwood is even more limited, with only two pickup times in the morning, one around 6 a.m. and the next not until just after 8 a.m.
Even with limited options, ridership was on track in the fourth quarter of 2018 to reach approximately 100,000 passenger trips for the year, according to Blankenship.
“Prior to the [Grand Avenue Bridge] detour, our Park and Ride maybe had six cars on a daily basis,” New Castle Mayor Art Riddile said. “Now, it’s half-full with 30 to 40 cars a day.”
Riddile also serves on the RFTA board as the representative for the western-most town that’s included in the taxing authority.
While RFTA’s 2019 budget puts the estimated, fully allocated operating cost of the Hogback bus service at approximately $1.168 million, Blankenship said grant money and other funding sources will be used to fill in the rest.
“Transportation is a big thing for us,” County Commissioner Mike Samson said. “It’s something we will continue to work on. I’m glad to see people are using the service.
“We need to start thinking of the future.”