Glenwood, Rifle bus service will increase

GLENWOOD SPRINGS — More trips and bigger buses are in store to keep up with the fast-growing use of the mass transit service between Rifle and Glenwood Springs.

Garfield County commissioners on Monday agreed to contribute $658,000 next year to the Roaring Fork Transit Authority for its Grand Hogback service.

The amount includes $286,000 to pay for maintaining the current level of service, which is projected to cost 10 percent more next year because of rising fuel expenses.

The county also will pay $172,000 for two more round trips. Also, it will provide $200,000 to match state funding for two 57-seat buses for the service, which now uses buses that seat about 42 people.

Ridership on the service increased 11 percent last year and is up 46 percent so far this year. RFTA added one round trip this year, and ridership for 2008 is expected to easily top 100,000 by year’s end. Some buses on the route have standing room only, said Dan Blankenship, RFTA’s chief executive officer.

The Rifle-Glenwood Springs service was started in 2002 and connects with service between Glenwood Springs and Aspen.

RFTA also hopes to eventually extend service to Battlement Mesa. That could cost $516,000 per year.

In addition, the agency has talked to Colorado Mountain College, which Blankenship said is interested in service from Colorado Highway 82 to its Spring Valley campus. That route could serve residential areas near
the campus and would cost about $380,000 per year to operate.

Blankenship had hoped to propose both of those new routes for consideration by Garfield County, but he said RFTA’s board decided to move more slowly regarding service expansions because of difficulties in being able to hire more employees quickly enough.

In 2004, residents in unincorporated Garfield County voted against RFTA membership.

Blankenship expects the county to eventually join RFTA, rather funding service from year to year. If the county does become a member, it would probably be expected to provide revenue from at least a 0.4-cent sales tax, which today would generate a little less than $2 million a year, Blankenship said.


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