RFTA delivers, now beneficiaries should too | PostIndependent.com

RFTA delivers, now beneficiaries should too

The next logical step in local mass transit is set to begin with expansion of Roaring Fork Transportation Authority bus service west to Rifle.

On April 15, RFTA is slated to run four round-trips a day between Glenwood Springs and Rifle, with stops in New Castle and Silt. The service was originally supposed to start in late November 2001.

Credit for this important transit service goes primarily to Glenwood Springs and Carbondale residents. They voted for more RFTA funding, through a 0.4 percent sales tax increase, on the promise that westward service expansion would follow.

A pat on the back is also due Glenwood Springs and Carbondale elected officials who complained loudly when RFTA balked at coming through on the deal, pleading budgetary travails.

RFTA board members came around to see the injustice of promising voters something and then failing to deliver.

Equally as important, they could see that with the passage of the valley-wide RFTA sales tax, Glenwood Springs became a donor city. City taxpayers now contribute substantially more in funding to the agency than the city receives proportionally in service.

The expansion rectifies things by providing a means for commuters as far away as Rifle to get to their upvalley workplace.

That’s critical in Glenwood Springs, where half the city’s workers live elsewhere.

Bus service could go far in reducing morning and evening traffic jams at the chokepoint in Glenwood Springs, and ease downtown parking congestion.

Rifle, Silt and New Castle benefit as well, as does Garfield County as a whole. Yet these communities and the county have yet to agree to provide any funding toward RFTA.

For the westside towns, that’s not too surprising. Virtually every community that RFTA has ever begun serving initially got mass transit for free.

Carbondale and Glenwood Springs balked at first at helping to subsidize bus service, until they realized the great benefits. Now they are willing contributors, and the beneficiaries of much more frequent service.

We hope it won’t take long for New Castle, Silt and Rifle, the newest communities to be served, to recognize RFTA’s value and elect to chip in.

Garfield County has less of an excuse.

RFTA has been serving the eastern half the county for years now, and has become a proven and irreplaceable mass transit option. Yet in 2000, the county commissioners refused to even allow county voters to decide whether they wanted to raise sales taxes to help fund RFTA.

It’s time the county stopped being so obstinate. It’s time for Garfield County to support this service that benefits so many county residents.

Meanwhile, some RFTA board members continue to suggest that the new westward service could be withdrawn if downvalley communities and the county don’t pitch in.

We hope that’s just ill-advised bluster.

The promise made to voters in Glenwood Springs and Carbondale to expand service westward wasn’t conditional on other communities jumping on board.

The RFTA board should stick with its proven approach. Provide communities reliable bus service, let it succeed, and they will come around to embrace it and fund it.

At that point, it can grow into something even better. We expect to see hourly service to Rifle by 2005.

And who knows? Perhaps RFTA will reach as far as Parachute and Battlement Mesa by then. Just imagine the convenience of bus service linking these western communities to each other and to Glenwood Springs.

We also look forward to new efforts to link RFTA to Eagle County’s mass transit. It would sew up the other major commuting route for Garfield County residents.

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