RFTA sets ridership record in 2014
RFTA BUS RIDERSHIP
A record number of passengers rode the public-bus system in the Roaring Fork Valley in 2014.
The Roaring Fork Transportation Authority reported that 4.9 million passengers were hauled on all routes last year. That was up by 753,865 riders, or slightly more than 18 percent, from the prior year.
The prior record was set in 2008 when RFTA hauled 4.85 million passengers. Last year’s increase topped the old record by 44,976, or 1 percent.
A number of factors played into breaking the record, said RFTA Chief Executive Officer Dank Blankenship. Chief among them were the strong economy, snowy roads for part of last ski season and early this season, and an expanded bus-rapid-transit service.
The expansion features more frequent service between Aspen and points downvalley, more comfortable buses, nicer stops and infrastructure designed to reduce travel time. The expanded service started in September 2013 and hauled 148,768 passengers that year. During its first full year of ridership, 826,952 passengers rode bus-rapid-transit buses.
Total Roaring Fork Valley commuter service — which combines bus rapid transit with buses that make more frequent stops — was up by 615,125, or 29 percent, above the prior year.
One of the few factors not in RFTA’s favor during the last part of 2014 was the price of gas. It dropped slightly below $2 per gallon in Glenwood Springs for a short time.
High bus ridership typically translates into reduced congestion from private vehicles on Highway 82.
In addition to the regional service, every specialized route offered by RFTA also saw gains in ridership.
Free ski buses, which Aspen Skiing Co. pays for through contracts with RFTA, were up by almost 50,000 riders, or 10 percent.
Maroon Bells summer and fall service was up 22,809 passengers, or nearly 23 percent.
The Grand Hogback service in the Interstate 70 corridor was up by about 16,000 riders, or 23 percent.
Ride Glenwood Springs service was up 23,500, or 12.5 percent.
City of Aspen contract service was up about 20,000, or nearly 2 percent. Winter X Games contracts were up 3.64 percent.
No service was down compared with 2013.
More riders meant more fare revenue for RFTA. The agency reported it collected $4.18 million from its various regional service, an increase of $406,060, or 11 percent. Maroon Bells service collected about $288,384, or 26 percent more than the prior summer.
RFTA was tracking for most of 2014 to exceed 5 million passengers for the first time. However, ridership gains weren’t as drastic during the last quarter of the year, so RFTA fell short of the mark.
Blankenship said he thinks RFTA will soon top 5 million, possibly as early as this year. Ridership was up nearly 5 percent in January over the same month in 2014, he said.
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Rick Holt, chief academic officer for the Roaring Fork School District and a former Carbondale Middle School principal, will be leaving to become superintendent of schools in the Archuleta County School District.