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Road Hog: RFTA starts new service

In the faint light of the early Monday dawn, the inaugural Hog rolled westward.

The Hog, short for the Grand Hogback bus route, is the nickname for the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority’s New Castle, Silt and Rifle bus service.

Monday was the route’s first day of operation and judging by the number of riders – about 15 boarded between Rifle and New Castle – the route seems to have potential.



The service, a campaign promise to voters during the November 2000 RTA election, comes at a time when RFTA is facing an uncertain financial picture.

But executive director Dan Blankenship said the route is a necessary and integral part of RFTA’s long-term plan. Much of the area’s coming growth will be along the Interstate 70 corridor west of Glenwood Springs, he said.



“We really think it’s going to be a big part of our future,” Blankenship said. “It’s something we’ve really been looking forward to doing.”

The first run from Rifle to Glenwood Springs, which left Rifle at 5:20 a.m. and arrived at the Glenwood Springs Mall at 5:59 a.m., transported just two riders, but on the way back to Rifle, bus driver Dave Drop predicted a much busier second run.

“I anticipate a lot of ridership on this later one for people coming into Glenwood,” Drop said. “There’s a lot of people who won’t jump into it right away. They want to make sure the service works before they jump into it.”

The bus pulled into Rifle shortly before 7 a.m. and from there, people were waiting at almost every stop along its jaunt back to Glenwood Springs.

As people hopped on, Blankenship, Drop, a RFTA bus driver who was on board learning the new route and RFTA planning director Mike Davis each expressed satisfaction with the turnout.

“Success!” Blankenship uttered to Davis with a grin.

Riders conveyed similar feelings about the new bus service.

“I think it’s great. I can save on my own transportation costs,” said Diane Graf, a Silt Mesa resident who was on her way to work at the Modern Kitchen Center between Glenwood Springs and Carbondale.

“It’s a lot more relaxing than driving in the morning. You can leave the driving to someone else,” she said.

Graf said a lot of people in her neck of the woods have been talking about the new service.

“It’s a pretty big thing for a lot of us,” she said.

The first bus in the morning starts its route at Metro Park in Rifle, departing at 5:20 a.m. That bus terminates at the Glenwood Springs Mall, where riders can transfer onto another bus to head upvalley or into Glenwood Springs.

The second bus, however, travels clear through to El Jebel. For those who live west of Glenwood Springs, the bus provides a direct link to downtown Glenwood Springs that arrives before 8 a.m., to Carbondale, where it arrives at 8:05 a.m., and to El Jebel, where it arrives at 8:30 a.m.

New Castle resident Nick Anziano, who rode the bus into Glenwood Springs Monday, said he’ll use the new service regularly.

“I like it. It makes a big difference,” he said. “Before, there was really no way to get back and forth without driving. I work at the mall so it’s a piece of cake.”

The service is free through April 21 to encourage people to try it out.

“We have to show people how it can work for them,” Blankenship said. “We have to be reliable, we have to be safe.”

Once RFTA starts charging for its rides on April 22, it will cost $4 to travel from Rifle to Glenwood Springs, $6 from Rifle to El Jebel and $9 from Rifle to Aspen. Discount punch passes can be purchased at any area City Market.

Schedules can be found on the buses, in town halls and at other busy locations in the area. For more information on RFTA, call 925-8484 or 928-8272 or check out the website at http://www.rfta.com.


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