RFTA climate action planning project more than halfway complete

Roaring Fork Transportation Authority buses sit at the depot in west Glenwood Springs.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent

The Roaring Fork Transportation Authority is more than halfway through its climate action plan project.

The inter-governmental transit agency created a four-phase project aimed at reducing greenhouse emissions within the agency’s regional bus operations. 

The first two phases involved working with various stakeholders and deciding on target goals. Phase three will include developing the climate action plan itself by using the information gathered to create strategies to track and accomplish the climate goals. 

A global engineering firm, Gannett Fleming, conducted research, collected data and through its findings agreed that the biggest solution to accomplishing climate goals is to increase bus ridership.

“One of the best things that RFTA can do for regional climate action is just keep people riding our buses and make it as affordable and convenient and fast and equitable as possible,” said Jason White, the multimodal transit/community planner for RFTA, during the RFTA board’s Nov. 10 meeting in Carbondale.

Wes Maurer, the vice president and sustainability director of Gannett Fleming, presented the engineering company’s findings. 

“There’s a lot of work still to be done,” Maurer said. 

Roaring Fork Transportation Authority buses sit at the depot in west Glenwood Springs.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent

There are a lot of transportation impacts to climate that are especially affecting the Roaring Fork and Colorado valleys, like decreased snowpack and an increase in fires, Maurer said. 

The next step for the company is deciding the ultimate greenhouse gas target.

Colorado’s largest emitting sector for greenhouse gasses is transportation and electric power generation. Together they both make up 50% of the state’s total emissions, according to the presentation by Maurer. Colorado also calls for a 90% reduction of greenhouse gasses by 2050.

RFTA is the largest rural regional transportation company in the nation, with a region spanning 70 miles from Aspen to Rifle and with nearly 5.5 million rider trips annually. About 90% of its greenhouse emissions come from bus fuels, according to the presentation. 

Their largest source of greenhouse gasses is diesel buses, which produce less emissions than gasoline but more than other means of powering RFTA’s bus fleet, such as compressed natural gas and electric-powered buses.

Transportation is the highest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States, accounting for 29% of U.S. emissions, according to the presentation.

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