RFTA buses going for the full ride starting June 7 | PostIndependent.com

RFTA buses going for the full ride starting June 7

Capacity limits will be lifted on all routes, including Maroon Bells

Staff report
Passengers wait to load onto the RFTA bus in the evening on Aug. 12. Capacity has been limited to 50% since last November. RFTA will return to full capacity June 7. (Kelsey Brunner/The Aspen Times)

The Roaring Fork Transportation Authority will transition to full seating capacity on all routes starting Monday, including on the popular Maroon Bells shuttles.

RFTA has operated at capacity limits since the COVID-19 pandemic struck in March 2020. Since Nov. 2 it has operated at 50 percent capacity.

“Due to the decline in the COVID-19 infection rate, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment and the Colorado Department of Transportation have rescinded all social distancing restrictions on public transit within Colorado,” RFTA said in a news release. “Pitkin County Public Health has also given RFTA clearance for this increase.”

The decision has major implications for the experience at the Maroon Bells Scenic Area. Last year, individual shuttles could handle only 15 passengers per bus for a total of 435 passengers heading up per day. This year, the shuttles can accommodate 35 passengers for each of the 29 scheduled departures from the Aspen Highlands staging area. That boosts the daily total to 1,015 people per day. Shuttle reservations can be made AspenChamber.org.

Even with the easing of capacity limits, RFTA still will keep rules in place to keep people safe from COVID-19.

First, no buses will fill to the point beyond seating capacity. If there are 36 seats, only 36 passengers will be allowed to board. “Riders are permitted to stand, but the total number of riders aboard the bus may not exceed the number of seats on the bus,” RFTA said.

Second, federal law requires that masks be worn on public transit through Sept. 13. Bandannas, ski buffs and scarves do not qualify as acceptable face coverings.

Third, people who are sick and suspect they were exposed to COVID-19 should not ride a bus.

Fourth, guidance from bus drivers must be followed, because they are responsible for the health and safety of their passengers.

Limited capacity has taken a toll on RFTA’s ridership. Through February this year, the latest statistic available, RFTA hauled 548,139 riders this year compared to 1,169,797 at the same point in 2020. That’s a decrease of 53 percent.

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