RFTA’s Hog: This pig just may fly | PostIndependent.com

RFTA’s Hog: This pig just may fly

At a time of decreased bus ridership and tough financial times, Roaring Fork Transportation Authority officials are glad to report the “Hog” is bringing home the bacon. RFTA’s Grand Hogback route, which provides bus service between Glenwood Springs and Rifle, has grown faster than even the most optimistic predictions.”I was fairly stoked,” RFTA director Dan Blankenship said of the growth. The service began April 15, when RFTA offered free rides to familiarize people in Rifle, Silt and New Castle with the service. Since then, the service has become popular enough to add three more eastbound trips and two westbound. “I think June 9 was when we increased the service,” Blankenship said. “Then June’s numbers were up about 35 percent.”From April 15-30, drivers counted 553 passengers on the Hog. Since then, the number of riders has increased dramatically each month. In May there were 1,243 passengers, in June there were 1,667, and in July the number skyrocketed to 2,486.And while hard numbers aren’t yet in for August, Blankenship said, “it could be similar to July or hopefully better.””I was really pleasantly surprised,” he said.No additional route increases are planned on the Hog for now, but Blankenship said RFTA planners will keep close tabs. “We’ll have to take a hard look at the winter season,” he said. Unfortunately, the same increases do not apply to Ride Glenwood Springs bus service. Ridership on the city bus service is down about 18 percent so far in 2002, with the biggest decreases coming in the normally busy months of June, which was down 27 percent from 2001, and July, down 29 percent. “Part of the problem in June was the fire,” Blankenship said of the June 8 Coal Seam Fire, which destroyed 29 homes and forced much of the city to be evacuated for several days. “They couldn’t run the full schedule. We think that had some impact on the numbers.”Then in July, the service was changed. One of the two Ride Glenwood buses was taken off the Highway 6&24/Grand Avenue route and is being used to serve the Community Center and West Midland Avenue. “Some of (the decreases) are a result of the economy, but it probably has a lot to do with the change that was made,” Blankenship figured. But that doesn’t mean bus riders have stopped riding. As part of the change, Ride Glenwood Springs and RFTA passes are now interchangeable in Glenwood Springs. So while there are fewer riders on the Ride buses, in-town ridership on RFTA buses has increased about 51 percent, Blankenship said. “The RFTA bus has kind of become the anchor for the half-hour service,” he said. Glenwood Springs transportation demand management consultant Cathy Tuttle said while she would like to see more people using Ride Glenwood Springs, the TDM program’s main goal is to get cars off the streets. “Even though it may not be Ride Glenwood Springs, it’s still bus service,” she said. “If you see that big bus and you want to get on at that time, jump on!”And despite recent decreases in ridership for Ride, Tuttle said she’s happy there is service to the Community Center. “With the Community Center, it’s a new route, and it takes a little while to catch on,” she said. Blankenship agreed. “Although we’ve seen a reduction kind of as a result of this change, we’ve maximized the resources to create service to a new area,” he said. “Now what we need to do is continue marketing the new service, and I think in time we’ll see that service kind of build up.”

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