RTA board talks planes, late night buses and vouchers, oh my!

RTA recaps summer, looks toward winter
Summer is rolling along for the Gunnison County Rural Transportation Authority as board members and staff work to improve air access into and across the valley both for the remainder of the warm months and for the upcoming winter season. 

At its July meeting, the RTA announced that so far this summer the Houston flight had been largely a success, with flights selling “briskly.” “The first flight arrived on June 21 and we have had no significant operational issues so far,” said RTA executive director Scott Truex. “It’s been fantastic. I think we’re at a 77 percent load factor right now.” In airline speak, a load factor is a measurement used to assess how efficiently a transport provider fills seats and generates revenue from fares. Summer flights will run through August 10, then it’s on to focusing on winter airline service. For the 2014-2015 winter season, the RTA will support nonstop flights from Chicago, Houston and Dallas, and those flights have already been loaded into the system, meaning they are currently available for sale through the airlines. “Looking at the upcoming winter there are going to be more seats available than last year,” said Truex. “We’ll have extra flight coming in and they’ll be coming at the right times; during the holidays and the weekends in spring.” The RTA also recounted the success of its newly deployed Friends of Flight program, aimed at encouraging local businesses owners to help market the RTA in exchange for vouchers on flights. Twenty-six businesses participated in the spring launch of the program; however, according to RTA reports, only one business has cashed in on its earned voucher. “I want to make sure that people feel they got the value,” said Truex. “With only one credit being redeemed for a summer booking, I want to talk about the option of reissuing credits that could be used on winter flights. When the flights are already full, the credits are hard to redeem.” RTA board chairman Paula Swenson agreed that reissuing the credits could be beneficial for all involved and might help continue building the relationships the program was designed to establish. Speaking of building relationships, the RTA is considering working with a few businesses to provide a late-night bus from Crested Butte to Gunnison. The bus would be primarily for workers in the restaurant industry who, according to board members Aaron Huckstep and Roland Mason, have been struggling to find transportation to and from work. “Roland and I have been hearing a lot from employers who are having a hard time getting their staff up here and back down to Gunnison,” said Huckstep. “One employer in particular said they would even consider contributing if the RTA would consider running a late night bus from Crested Butte to Gunnison.” RTA staff said they would explore the possibility of adding a late-night bus, but it would require additional funding to the tune of about $280 per roundtrip. Lastly, board member Danny D’Aquilla expressed concern that some riders on the RTA bus were using bus stops as unofficial marijuana smoke shacks, which in turn was acting as a deterrent to other riders and parents who wished to use the bus as transportation for their children and teens. “I don’t want my kids or any other kids around that,” said D’Aquilla. “Can we post any sort of sign or deterrent to stop this?” As a reminder, smoking marijuana in public is illegal and doing it where kids are present is lame and irresponsible. RTA staff told D’Aquilla they would look into the issue and if possible ask the Gunnison sheriff’s office to have a talk with bus riders. To learn more about the RTA, airline options and bus schedules, visit the RTA website at http://gunnisonvalleyrta.org.

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