Mountain News: Bus ridership surges 

ASPEN, Colo. – Bus ridership is up substantially this winter in the Roaring Fork Valley.

Dan Blankenship, director of RFTA, cites decreases in day-skier parking in Snowmass Village, higher parking fees in Aspen, and soaring gas prices. Certainly not least has been the repeated winter storms that made driving on Highway 82 taxing this winter.

Buses have been so full during prime commuting hours this winter that some passengers have been forced to stand for extended trips, reports The Aspen Times. Blankenship says the agency, despite substantial pay increases and benefits, has a hard time hiring and holding onto drivers. Ultimately, more affordable housing is needed.

Volume last year was 4.45 million passengers, an increase of nearly 9 per cent over 2006. At current rates, the growth in passenger volume will be 33 per cent over a four-year period — a growth that directors had envisioned for the next 15 years. RFTA runs buses from Aspen nearly 80 miles down-valley to Rifle. As a short-term fix, RFTA is buying two new 57-passenger buses.

The longer term remains problematic. RFTA had been planning an expansion of the system in what is called bus rapid transit, which means more dedicated bus lanes, fewer stops, and better bus stations at those stops. Ideally, such a bus system would happen sooner, rather than later. But if the local agencies provide the money, they may be ineligible for later federal funding.

In the meantime, directors recently agreed to make bus routes between Aspen and Snowmass Village, at a cost of $117,000 for the summer and fall months. Existing service for buses that make stops is $3 per ride.


In Jackson, too

JACKON HOLE, Wyo. – Bus riders on START, the bus system serving Jackson Hole, was up 14 per cent last year compared with 2006. Bus ridership continued to grow even more strongly in January, by 17 per cent. The route that draws the most riders, between the town of Jackson and the Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, has 77 buses scheduled daily. Other buses are dispatched to commuter areas, including the Star Valley and Teton Valley, Idaho, both more than a half-hour away from Jackson.


Real-estate sales prices secret

KETCHUM, Idaho – In Idaho, legislators have again refused a law that would make the sales prices of homes and other real estate property a matter of public record. Right now, public officials must keep the sales prices secret.

Driving this continued secrecy, says the Idaho Mountain Express, is a fear that this might lead to fees on real estate transfers. Such fees exist in Colorado, with no harm to the real-estate economy, says the newspaper.

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