RFTA: Bus sked is a bust
Post Independent Staff
An attempt to provide 20-minute bus service in Glenwood Springs “is not working,” says the man in charge of the buses.
However, Dan Blankenship, chief executive officer for the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority, hopes things will improve once several major construction projects conclude later this year.
“We don’t have a typical set of operating circumstances to really gauge whether or not the tweaking we’ve done to the routing so far would be workable under normal conditions,” Blankenship said.
Besides providing regional bus service, RFTA contracts to provide the Ride Glenwood Springs in-town service. Earlier this year, a sharply divided City Council decided to reduce the area of that service, but increase the bus frequency to every 20 minutes, and make bus rides free.
After RFTA bus drivers had trouble keeping to the new schedule, the city and agency made some adjustments aimed at speeding things up, including no longer stopping by Valley View Hospital. But the buses continue to fall behind schedule.
“I think we, from the RFTA perspective, look at it today and say it is not working,” Blankenship said.
The route is stressing drivers, who have little time to take a break.
“As a driver, it’s just insane. It’s just literally insane,” said RFTA driver Matt DeCino, of New Castle.
Among local road projects, the reconstruction of the Midland Avenue-Eighth Street intersection has limited use of Midland as an alternate route and is forcing more traffic onto Grand Avenue. Also, the Colorado Department of Transportation is installing roundabouts at the west Glenwood interchange of Interstate 70.
“It’s like many things, there’s the law of unintended consequences,” Blankenship said. “A perfect storm of conditions can present themselves that maybe people didn’t see.”
“We’re not alone out there,” he added. “Motorists trying to get around and through this community also are facing significant challenges, and it’s painful.”
Blankenship counseled patience, noting that he’s seen the same situation during other Roaring Fork Valley construction projects.
“The day after these improvements open up, everybody’s going to go, ‘I wish they’d have done it 20 years ago; this is great,'” Blankenship said.
Blankenship said sometimes bus drivers get far enough behind that dispatchers tell them to remain at a stop until the next scheduled pickup. Such delays can frustrate passengers and drivers alike, he said.
DeCino said he used to enjoy working on the in-town service.
Now, “It’s so bad that the drivers can’t even drive the shift anymore,” he said.
“So far I think it’s been very challenging for the drivers,” Blankenship said. “I hope drivers can hang in there till we can make corrections.”
Blankenship likes what Glenwood is trying to accomplish in providing more frequent service. He noted that ridership numbers have gone up despite the less-than-ideal recent circumstances.
City Council made the changes, which also included cutting a south Glenwood route and focusing on core areas, to try to bring the service within its budget and get more ridership for the investment.
In May, the service carried a total of 16,188 passengers, up from just under 13,000 for the same month a year ago.
Blankenship noted that city officials are working closely with RFTA to try to make the new service a success. “Everybody has expressed a willingness to make it better over time,” he said.
RFTA driver DeCino isn’t optimistic. He thinks the changes have failed to accomplish the goal of attracting more tourist use. He also believes increasing service frequency is a good idea, but said 30-minute routes are more reasonable.
“With the way the town is even without the construction, it’s still a bear to get through,” he said.
Contact Dennis Webb: 945-8515, ext. 516
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