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Bus Rapid Transit provides benefits of rail

Transportation Responsibility & YouSabrina HarrisGlenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Post Independent Photo/Kelley Cox
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The Roaring Fork Transportation Authority (RFTA) is embarking on the development of a new and improved bus system to be implemented in the Roaring Fork Valley by 2017, as directed by the RFTA board of directors. Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) takes advantage of the latest in transportation technology improvements using buses, but provides many of the benefits of rail.The RFTA board of directors, with input from communities throughout the region, endorsed BRT in 2003 as the means of meeting increasing demand for convenient, reliable transit service region-wide in the face of growing traffic congestion. The Corridor Investment Study, completed after five years of community involvement, found that BRT along the State Highway 82 corridor from Glenwood Springs to Aspen, could meet the regions future transit needs as effectively as a rail system, at a substantially lower cost to implement over the next 20 years. The goal of this regional project is to improve RFTAs operations and facilities to be faster, more convenient, and more comfortable. BRT combines the flexibility and cost savings of buses with the efficiency, speed, reliability and amenities of rail. RFTAs BRT system will provide reduced transit travel times, improved mobility and reliable access throughout the Roaring Fork and Colorado River valleys during both peak and off-peak hours. Because BRT vehicles use hybrid electric engines burning a biodiesel blend, the system will help reduce emissions as well as local dependence on foreign energy sources and enhance regional sustainability.BRT elements typically include exclusive travel lanes where possible, stations and improved bus stops, easy-to-board vehicles, frequent speedy service and user-friendly technologies such as real-time passenger information at major bus stops. An increasing number of BRT systems is being implemented across the U.S. and the world; however system flexibility allows each application to be planned and designed to meet the specific needs and characteristics of the individual region.Some BRT elements, such as two new park-and-rides, are already in place. In addition, about half of RFTAs fleet is now composed of faster-boarding, low-floor buses. Phased implementation of the BRT project will begin as early as 2009 and go through 2017. Implementing BRT facilities and operations will require a larger amount of funds to likely come from a mix of sources, including federal Very Small Starts grant money and local funding such as new RFTA members, additional sales and/or visitor taxes and public/private partnerships. RFTA recently submitted a Very Small Starts grant application to the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) to offset the bulk of total project costs. This November, RFTA will ask eight existing member jurisdictions, which include Pitkin County, Eagle County, Aspen, Basalt, Carbondale, Glenwood Springs, New Castle and Snowmass Village, for a sales tax increase of four-tenths of one percent, to help pay the $61.2 million cost of improvements for Phase I of the BRT. For additional information on the breakdown of improvements, costs, and timing to implement Phase I of BRT, please visit http://www.rftabrt.com or call 384-4968 or e-mail RFTA at brt@rfta.com. Para informacin en Espaol llame al (970) 384-4950 o mande un correo electrnico a spanish@rfta.com.Sabrina Harris is transportation manager for the city of Glenwood Springs.


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