RFTA board gives green light to pare summer bus service
Cuts necessary because there aren’t enough drivers
The Roaring Fork Transportation Authority’s board of directors Thursday signed off on a staff proposal to reduce summer bus service by 7% due to a shortage of drivers.
No formal vote was required, but chief executive officer Dan Blankenship and his team sought the board’s support. New Castle Mayor and RFTA director Art Riddile said it has been well documented that there is a national labor shortage. RFTA is no exception.
“Everybody probably understands this,” Riddile said. “I don’t expect any pushback.”
Aspen Mayor Torre was supportive of the cuts as well but expressed hope that RFTA would make an effort to solicit feedback from its customers about the reductions.
Blankenship said a public hearing on the cuts would be held at RFTA’s next board of directors meeting June 9. The summer schedule starts June 6.
RFTA will pare its summer service to 899 daily one-way trips from the schedule of 971. One of the biggest impacts will be to its Bus Rapid Transit service, which makes fewer stops in an effort to transport passengers as quickly as possible between Aspen and points downvalley. The number of BRT trips will be reduced to 116 from 149 daily. It will maintain 15-minute gaps between buses between 4:35 and 10:50 a.m. to handle the morning commute and between 1:50 and 7:20 p.m. for the afternoon rush. There will be a 30-minute gap between buses in all other times.
The cuts are needed, according to a staff memo, because RFTA has enough drivers to handle only an estimated 90% of its scheduled service this summer. With the cuts, its “operational readiness” will be at 105%. That’s before sick time, vacations, retirements and surprises.
RFTA had a target of employing 185 drivers. Over the past 18 months, the average was only 151 drivers. Turnover has been high.
RFTA negotiated a pay scale with a union for the drivers. Even so, the cost of living in the Roaring Fork Valley coupled with a lack of affordable housing has made it tough to retain workers, Blankenship said. The agency is exploring construction of housing on land it owns.
The summer schedule can be found at the agency’s website at http://www.rfta.com.
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