Give voters chance to support RFTA |

Give voters chance to support RFTA

“It’s time” for Garfield County voters to be allowed to vote on whether to join the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority and pay a transportation tax, County Commissioner Tresi Houpt believes.

Indeed, it is high time, and kudos go to Houpt for pushing the issue as a member of a county commission that historically has been cool to mass transportation in the region.

The county once didn’t even let RFTA stop in unincorporated parts of the county. More recently, it refused to let its citizens vote on whether to become part of the rural transportation authority that funds RFTA.

New Castle, Silt and Rifle likewise have yet to agree to put the question before voters. But that didn’t stop RFTA from going forward with a logical expansion of bus service as far downvalley as Rifle, even at a time of financial difficulty.

Slowly but surely, Garfield County is coming around to recognizing the value of supporting RFTA, just as Glenwood Springs once had to be won over. Last year, the county contributed $25,000 to RFTA. It was a small but symbolically significant move, and the next logical step is to let voters decide whether to create a permanent Garfield County revenue source for RFTA.

County Commissioner John Martin questions whether the sales tax base in unincorporated parts of the county is big enough to make it worth joining RFTA. But again, the move would be as much symbolic as anything. It could provide the motivation for downvalley communities to follow suit by putting the matter to their voters as well, now that downvalley bus service is proving its worth.

New Rifle City Council members recently expressed surprised to Houpt that the county isn’t already part of RFTA. They also should question Rifle’s lack of membership, and give voters there the chance to change that. Rifle’s sales tax base, recently greatly enhanced by the opening of a Super Wal-Mart, could provide a big boost to the financially struggling RFTA.

A county vote to join RFTA would have huge value if it prompted similar action by Rifle, not to mention Silt and New Castle. It’s time to let voters in all these jurisdictions decide just how valuable the bus service is to them.

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