RFTA wants passengers to `think rail, use buses’

Lynn Burton
Post Independent Staff

The Roaring Fork Transit Authority showed off its ideas for a new bus fleet in Glenwood Springs Wednesday; prices ranged from $270,000 to $3 million.

The $3 million price tag was for a state-of-the-art, fuel-cell, hybrid electric drive system bus, manufactured by ThunderVolt, which was more than twice as expensive as the next-most-costly bus.

“You’d move through your budget pretty fast with this,” said transportation consultant Fred Silver, who briefed a small but attentive audience at an open house at the Glenwood Springs Community Center.

The Roaring Fork Transit Authority (RFTA) invited the public to the noontime buffet briefing as part of a series of presentations to explain its proposed Bus Rapid Transit system.

Silver was also scheduled to give the same briefing on bus technology in Carbondale Wednesday night, and at Aspen City Hall from noon to 2 p.m. today.

Aided by a computerized slide show, Silver gave an overview that explained transportation technology, clean fuels, and Environmental Protection Agency regulations that will take effect in 2007.

Silver concluded his presentation by quickly discussing pros and cons of 12 types of buses manufactured by six companies. The first bus out of the chute was an 80-foot-long articulated vehicle that bends in the middle, and brought “oohs” from the audience.

“This one has nice, wide doors,” Silver said. “This is what people want on an automatic guidance system.”

Earlier in the meeting, Silver explained that with automatic guidance systems, BRT buses are optically or magnetically guided into bus stop platforms, which speeds the boarding process and reduces travel time.

All but one bus Silver discussed was a BRT vehicle, which differ from existing RFTA commuter buses through their easy boarding, and features that help to create more of a train ride than bus experience.

“Think rail, use buses,” said RFTA spokesperson Alice Hubbard after the meeting. “People will get on a bus if it’s more like a train.”

One type of bus, a $300,000 hybrid with an electric and internal combustion engine, uses its electric engine at low speeds, so it is very quiet inside town limits. “This one is the best of both worlds,” Silver said.

Vehicle technology is one component of RFTA’s plan to build a BRT system to serve travelers from Aspen to West Glenwood Springs. Other BRT elements include train-station-style bus stops in each town from Glenwood Springs to Aspen, park-and-ride lots, and computerized systems to make buses run faster and on time.

Hubbard said the RFTA board will decide later this year how to fund and implement a BRT system, which could be phased in during years to come.

This summer, RFTA will also ask town councils to refine the BRT plan for their own respective towns.

Contact Lynn Burton: 945-8515, ext. 534

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