Rifle pays the most in Garfield County for senior Traveler services

The Traveler serves senior riders from Parachute to Aspen.
File/Post Independent

The bill for a public transit service that specializes in offering free rides to senior citizens throughout Garfield County recently came in higher than expected for Rifle.

The Traveler, run by the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority, as well as the Garfield County-run senior meals program, is costing $184,755. For 2023, however, Rifle budgeted $130,000 to cover these costs.

Despite the increase, Rifle City Council on Dec. 21 unanimously approved a seven-party memorandum of understanding to fund the services at the newly proposed rate, with the city expected to incur the extra cost.

“We will submit a supplement to the budget next year to make up for the difference,” City Manager Tommy Klein said.

In 2020, the city started to explore ways it could potentially reduce costs for funding The Traveler after learning its ridership was declining but that it’s still paying more than neighboring Garfield County cities, except Glenwood Springs. Back then, the main goal was to keep the expense less than $100,000.

RFTA eventually used a cost formula proposed by the former Rifle City Council, and somehow that formula led to Rifle overshooting its goal of $100,000 or less by $84,755. 

“We looked at all the studies and rates,” City Council Member Sean Strode said. “I wonder some time this year if it’s worthwhile for Council to look at overall efficiency of The Traveler instead of just the rate structure.

“Whatever the options are, I’d advocate this year to look at all this stuff.”

Estimates are derived from total number of trips provided in each jurisdiction, the total estimated loaded miles and minutes consumed by each jurisdiction, city documents state.

For 2023, Rifle is estimated to produce 4,079 one-way passenger trips, 8,137 loaded miles (miles driven while passengers are physically on-board) and 53,816 loaded minutes (actual minutes spent driving while passengers are physically on-board) for an estimated cost total of $262,522. Rifle is responsible for defraying $134,374 while the county, program income and grants cover the rest. This means Rifle is paying the most in 2023 out of any other municipality in Garfield County for The Traveler services.

“We really get a good value for our money,” Rifle City Council Member Brian Condie said. “And the county supports it.”

All municipalities paying for The Traveler Services in 2023:

  1. Rifle: $134,374
  2. Glenwood Springs: $124,377
  3. New Castle: $45,564
  4. Carbondale: $2,949
  5. Silt: $2,431

All municipalities paying for senior meals services in 2023:

  1. Glenwood Springs: $52,686
  2. Rifle: $50,381
  3. Silt: $14,976
  4. Carbondale: $10,920
  5. New Castle: $5,910

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