RFTA not yet able to float Carbondale solutions | PostIndependent.com

RFTA not yet able to float Carbondale solutions

Lynn Burton

A recent Roaring Fork Transit Authority memo outlined several service problems on the Carbondale bus route, but long-term solutions must wait until next year at the earliest.

Mike Davis, RFTA’s planning director, said Carbondale’s transportation issues are tied to the agency’s ongoing Highway 82 Corridor Investment Study, which won’t be completed until this winter.

“The study will identify alternate transportation systems,” Davis said.

Carbondale’s problems were outlined in a memo Davis wrote to the town’s board of trustees, and will be discussed in an upcoming work session.

“We’re trying to be proactive on this,” Davis said.

Lack of transit service in south Carbondale, and the absence of a park-and-ride lot, are two problems the memo addresses.

South Carbondale includes River Valley Ranch and its ball fields, the Villas de Santa Lucia housing complex, Carbondale South condominiums, Roaring Fork High School, and the town’s ball fields. Despite the growth in south Carbondale in the past five years, the closest bus stop is more than a mile to the north on Main Street. Davis said that if a new bus stop was created in south Carbondale, the one on Main Street might be closed.

“And that would have a big impact,” Davis said.

Davis said two events started causing RFTA to re-evaluate its Carbondale bus service more than two years ago.

The first event was the development of the 450-acre River Valley Ranch, and its 55-unit affordable housing component, both of which brought more residents to south Carbondale.

The second big impact came when RFTA had to pull its park-and-ride lot from the Cowen Center at the entrance of town because the property owner wanted to further develop the parcel. The Roaring Fork Transit Agency has been looking for a new park-and-ride lot ever since.

Davis said RFTA has identified six or seven potential park-and-ride parcels to lease, but declined to name them due to negotiation considerations. In any case, most developers offer leases on land for park-and-ride lots at below-market values.

“RFTA can’t afford to pay market rates,” Davis said.

Davis’ memo also listed unpredictable bus service from Aspen, and noise complaints on downtown residents streets, as areas of concern.

Davis chalked up most of the unpredictable service to construction delays on Highway 82. Even when highway construction is completed, however, weather delays can still be expected. Although riders might not notice, some help is on the way through RFTA’s new internal scheduling system, which Davis said will rely more on computers than pencils.

As for downtown noise, Davis said one solution is for RFTA to use smaller buses. “But no funding has been identified for this service,” Davis’s memo said.

Carbondale has RFTA bus stops on Highway 133 at Thunder River Lodge and the Cowen Center, on Main Street at Subway and across the street from that location, and at the swimming pool.

Ridership numbers are consistent from winter to summer. Davis’ memo said a January 2001 survey showed 1,062 passenger trips originating or ending at Carbondale’s bus stops, and 1,058 trips in August 2000.

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