Roaring Fork Transportation Authority raises employee pay

Regional transit service looks to offset cost of living, fill 30-40 vacancies

Westley Crouch
For the Post Independent
A Roaring Fork Transportation Authority bus makes a stop in El Jebel.

Roaring Fork Transportation Authority (RFTA) and the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 1774 came to an agreement on Thursday to increase employee pay to help with the increased cost of living and housing in the valley.

RFTA President Dan Blankenship and the Board of Directors worked with ATU Local 1774 members and President Ed Cortez to increase pay for RFTA employees starting at $30/hour with a cap of $38/hour.

RFTA currently employs around 385 employees, 140 of which are bus operators. RFTA currently has 30 — 40 vacancies. RFTA employs a large variety of skilled workers, from bus drivers, to lodge van operators and maintenance workers, along with various other administrative positions.

“We wanted to do everything that we can to add to our driving ranks so we can deliver a very reliable, convenient, and comfortable service to everyone,” Blankenship said.

Referring to the pay increase, Blankenship hopes that word gets out, not only in the region, but across the state — even the nation. 

He said he wants people to notice and say, “‘Hey, RFTA is starting people at $30/hour.'”

Cortez said that these negotiations came down to basic economics. 

“There is a great demand for drivers and right now, we have a small supply.”

A Roaring Fork Transportation Authority bus stops in Basalt.

Cortez has been working with Blankenship and the Board of Directors since the spring to address the economic problems that drivers have long been facing. Housing has been the biggest issue, not just for new recruits but for current employees who have seen firsthand the problems caused by rising rents and a shortage of affordable housing.  

“We at the ATU Local 1774 felt that wages were the real priority, and if drivers had wages that were deserving of, then that would eliminate a lot of issues,” Cortez said.

Both Cortez and Blankenship say retention and recruitment remain the largest issue as sticker shock with rental prices can lead many employees to not be able to remain in the area.

According to Zillow, the medium cost of a rental in Glenwood Springs is $2,800. Cortez said that RFTA has employee housing at a more affordable rate but space is limited. Increasing wages for drivers will help workers open themselves up to other housing options. 

Cortez gave credit for this pay increase to Blankenship and the Board of Directors for opening up discussions and coming to a reasonable solution that will not only help current employees but also increase retention and help with recruitment.

On top of the increase in wages, RFTA has and continues to offer benefits packages to employees that include health, vision and dental. 401(a) retirement benefits include an employer contribution of 12.5% annually. Bonuses, supplemental programs and short-term disability are also included. 

Blankenship said that he and the RFTA Board of Directors will be holding discussions over the next couple of days to talk about employee benefits to ensure employees’ needs continue to be met.

Anyone interested in becoming a RFTA bus operator or maintenance worker can apply at and go to the careers section on the bottom right corner of the home page.

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