RTA buses hauling more people than ever before

Additional buses will allow winter schedule expansion next season

by Mark Reaman

The RTA buses traveling up and down Highway 135 are being used — a lot. In 2022 the Gunnison Valley Rural Transportation Authority (RTA) buses carried almost a quarter million people up and down the valley between Gunnison and Mt. Crested Butte. In January of 2023 another new monthly record for passenger use was recorded as almost 41,000 seats were filled in the month.

“January beat the previous record by about 2,300 people,” RTA executive director Scott Truex told the board of directors at the February 17 meeting. “The previous record month was December (of 2022). Out of the last 12 months, 10 have set records for that particular month, and I expect by April it will be 12 out of 12 months.”

Truex said the transit system has definitely recovered from the COVID pandemic slowdown when passengers were limited, and people avoided the buses for about two years. “The numbers recorded for this January were more than 54% up from what we saw the previous January,” he said. “The 2022 numbers were up about 44% over 2021.”

More than 12,000 senior transportation trips were also recorded throughout the county in 2022. Truex cited data that showed about 9% of the passengers are now boarding in Crested Butte South. He noted that passengers were using the bus stops in Gunnison pretty equally, which he said indicated they were located in the right spots.

“Between 97% and 99% of our runs were completed within 15 minutes of the schedule,” Truex reported. “Our goal is to have at least 95% of the runs completed within 15 minutes of the schedule so we are meeting our on-time goals.”

RTA board members Boe Freeburn and Jason MacMillan said they were both regular bus users and they had nothing but good things to say about the buses and the drivers.

Truex informed the board that two new Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) buses will be delivered to the county in April. They will be added to the RTA fleet giving the RTA 10 total buses, eight of which will be CNG. The two new buses will be paid for primarily (80%) with federal grants while the RTA will contribute $308,000. 

“Adding those two buses will allow us to expand the schedule for next winter,” noted Truex. He also said the new bus storage barn being constructed in the Whetstone Industrial Park south of Crested Butte should be ready to hold a couple of buses when they arrive and if everything goes well, the facility could be completely finished by May or June.

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