Roaring Fork Transportation Authority (RFTA)

Welcome to Valley Roundup, a review of the top news stories in the valley in the past week.

RFTA bus drivers voted to unionize this week. It looks like better wages are on the horizon.

What can be done, if anything, about the valley’s dwindling workforce, low wages and high cost of living?

Meanwhile, over-use of the national forest is once again at the forefront of conversation. Expect to see more rangers patroling the Hanging Lake trail in Glenwood Canyon.

President Obama has recommended that police officers around the country wear body cameras. Is that necessary here?

And elected officials on the lower end of the valley are wondering whether they should continue to protect the Rio Grande trail for a future rail line.

Joining this week are Curtis Wackerle, Managing Editor of the Aspen Daily News, Randy Essex, Editor of the Glenwood Post Independent and Brent Gardner-Smith, executive director of Aspen Journalism and Michael Miracle, editor of Aspen Sojourner magazine.

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There's few unions in the Roaring Fork Valley-- and now, there's another.Full-time bus drivers with the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority have voted to unionize. Ballots were counted in Denver on Wednesday by the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment. The final count didn’t begin until the mail arrived late at Colorado’s labor agency after 3pm. Heavy snow had delayed the delivery. Driver Ed Cortez was waiting breathlessly, with a representative of the Amalgamated Transit Union.

Roaring Fork Transit Authority

Full time bus drivers with the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority have voted to unionize. Ballots were counted in Denver today by the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment. The agency has confirmed the results. 65 drivers voted for unionization, with 22 against.

Roaring Fork Transit Authority

Full time bus drivers for the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority are voting on whether to unionize. If approved, it would be the first time in more than a decade for drivers to be a part of a union. 

Ed Cortez was selected by other bus drivers to lead the union vote. He’s been a full time driver for two and a half years, and describes what it was like getting behind the wheel. 

“Well, initially I was very nervous, very intimidated. Slowly but surely I realized that I really loved driving.”

A big reason is getting to know riders from all backgrounds-- from regular folks to politicians.

Your Morning News - February 13th, 2015

Feb 13, 2015

Less Snow Means Less Green for Businesses

Aspen saw its second driest January in nearly a hundred years. February so far has also been dry and warm. For businesses who make a lot of money on snow, it’s been a tough go of it.

 

“I’ve been in the snow removal business for 28 years, and really never seen this long a dry spell before,” says Will Vannice.

 

He owns Daly Properties in Basalt. He and his workers usually remove snow and ice for commercial properties, and business is down about 350 percent. Vannice says the company will probably make it through OK, as long as he keeps spending to a minimum. But it’s harder on the workers.

 

“We have 6 salaried positions here and they just cut 30% of their salary out until the first of April,” he says.

 

Further up valley, Glenn Loper is owner of Groundskeepers of Aspen. The company also does snow removal and landscaping.

 

“At this point we’re on an “on call” business for our employees, about fifteen or eighteen of them that are in limbo right now.”

 

Loper also has about a handful of salaried employees and they’re staying busy down in Carbondale. That’s because Groundskeepers is now operating Planted Earth nursery there. Like Will Vannice, Loper has to make sure he keeps an eye on spending this spring to make it through OK. And they’re both waiting out February before switching over to spring landscaping.  

“I was kind of excited the other day when I saw that the weather pattern had shifted and we’re possibly gonna get more snow now,” Loper says.

 

Aspenweather.net is forecasting snow for this Sunday and Monday. Corey Gates, co-founder of the hyper-local forecasting website, says the rest of the month looks stormy.

He guesses that 28 inches of snow will fall by the end of the month.

rfta.com

  The Roaring Fork Transportation Authority will likely consider extending the comment period for its controversial plan. RFTA has gotten a strong reaction to its December draft access plan, including accusations of stealing or limiting access to private property. Aspen Public Radio’s Elise Thatcher has more.

Your Evening News - January 12th, 2015

Jan 12, 2015

State Health Officials Observing Possible Ebola Case

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment says a person who traveled to an Ebola-affected country in Africa is under observation following fever symptoms in Denver. Doctor Larry Wolk is Executive Director of the state department. In a news release he says the person came to Denver Health overnight and will be monitored and evaluated. The person is believed to be at low-risk for ebola, but they will be tested for the disease. Health officials say they are exercising extreme caution.

Your Morning News - January 8th, 2015

Jan 8, 2015

RFTA Looks to Expand Parking for Riders

The Roaring Fork Transportation Authority is trying to solve the problem of overflowing parking lots at its bus stops. RFTA’s Board of Directors will consider possible solutions at its meeting today.

Parking lots for bus riders fill up fast in the Roaring Fork Valley. By 8am on weekdays lots in places like El Jebel and Carbondale are packed.

RFTA officials point to positive growth in ridership since the Bus Rapid Transit system started in 2013. Three new parking lots - in Carbondale, Glenwood Springs and New Castle are planned. In the meantime, RFTA must find a way to free up spots for transit users. Michael Hermes is Director of Facilities for RFTA.

“There are activities going on at the park and ride’s not related to transit such as ridesharing and patrons of adjacent businesses parking there. So, other uses are taking up spots that are intended for transit users.”

The board will discuss whether RFTA should take enforcement measures to keep drivers out who aren’t intending on taking the bus. RFTA manages more than 800 parking spots in its system from Rifle to Aspen.

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Public transportation is expensive, and officials can have a hard time keeping up with costs. But making sure bus and other services simply continue as they are, is a big goal for officials in Colorado’s Intermountain region. 

Roaring Fork Transit Authority

Bus service in the Roaring Fork Valley will be less frequent starting next Tuesday, September 2nd. It’s part of the usual fall calendar switch for the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority, but the agency is also having its first anniversary with the VelociRFTA bus rapid transit service, or BRT. Aspen Public Radio’s Elise Thatcher spoke with President and CEO Dan Blankenship.  

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