Roaring Fork Valley bus riders face rate hike |

Roaring Fork Valley bus riders face rate hike

CARBONDALE ” Transit officials are considering hiking bus fares 10 to 15 percent in the Roaring Fork Valley next year to cope with high fuel prices.

It now costs $4 to ride from El Jebel to Aspen on a bus, although a pass that is good for 10 rides between El Jebel and Aspen sells for $28.

The Roaring Fork Transportation Authority is expected to rule this fall on a fare hike for the 2009 fiscal year, which starts in December.

RFTA Chief Executive Officer Dan Blankenship said the agency budgeted $1.8 million to buy fuel in 2008 but has already added $500,000 to its fuel budget. It will likely need to add up to $400,000 more before the end of this fiscal year, he said.

Although soaring fuel costs have raised expenses for RFTA this year, they also have increased ridership among commuters who can’t afford or don’t want to drive their own vehicles.

RFTA expects to serve a record 4.75 million passengers this year. Last year was first time the agency topped 4 million. “Due to higher ridership, fare revenue is on a pace to exceed budget by approximately $400,000,” Blankenship said.

The crush of riders has made it a challenge for RFTA to hire enough drivers, leading to overtime costs for existing staff.

Blankenship and his staff expect operating costs will exceed the budgeted amount by about $1 million this year, although unanticipated revenues like extra fares and deferred capital projects will at least partially offset overruns.

Meanwhile, RFTA is planning a $61.2 million expansion that would add buses and make other improvements.

It is seeking to raise money through tax increases, bonds and grants. Voters in towns from Aspen to New Castle and in Pitkin and Eagle counties will be asked to approve a 0.4 percent sales tax increase in November and a $44.5 million bond issuance.

Carbondale voters will be asked similar questions.

RFTA also is seeking $21.3 million in grants from the Federal Transit Administration.

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