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  The Roaring Fork Transportation Authority will decide in September whether to approve an updated approach for preserving its rail corridor. RFTA’s Board of Directors had planned on voting on the matter this summer, but instead they’ll delay and spend more time addressing questions and concerns.

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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 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.

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  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 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. 

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Seat belts could have prevented major injuries in October’s major bus crash near Carbondale. A Roaring Fork Transit Authority bus rolled onto its side, sending at least ten people to the hospital. Less a month later, the federal government decided to require seat belts in exactly the kind of bus that wrecked. The requirement won’t start until 2016. In the meantime, an internal investigation and county traffic court are delving into what happened the night of the accident.

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Residents of the Roaring Fork Valley are saving millions of dollars thanks to the local bus system. That's the conclusion of an independent assessment. It says RFTA’s service reduces commute times, increases public safety and cuts down on the number of car miles traveled per year. Aspen Public Radio's Marci Krivonen reports.