Topped 300k for first time in 2023
By Katherine Nettles
The Gunnison Valley Rural Transportation Authority (RTA) has continued breaking ridership records throughout the past year and expects to improve on its capacity and consistency as it brought on the final drivers to complete its roster last month.
During the RTA board meeting on January 12, RTA executive director Scott Truex reported that December ridership was up 14% and the RTA carried more than 44,000 passengers, a new record for a month. “We ended up carrying 327,692 passengers in 2023, which is up 31% over 2022. That’s amazing to me,” he said. The previous record was 249,945 riders in 2022.
In December the RTA completed 2,513 bus trips; 93.6% were within five minutes of schedule, and 98.6% were within 15 minutes of schedule. “We didn’t complete 29 trips, which is about 1% of those scheduled,” Truex said. Twenty-four of those were caused by lack of drivers, but he said that driver recruitment has been successful. Eight new drivers started at the end of January.
Board member Laura Puckett Daniels asked about instances of reduced capacity situations in the past year when the RTA had to use vans in place of buses because they didn’t have commercial vehicle licensed drivers available, and if some people were getting left behind.
“Sometimes,” admitted Truex, but he said people who couldn’t fit would usually only have to wait another 15 minutes. “They try to schedule them so there’s another bus running 15 minutes behind them,” he said.
Puckett Daniels also suggested a little more notice when a bus was either cancelled or changed to a van.
“If you’re planning to take the bus home at 9:30 at night and then you realize all of a sudden it’s not going to happen, that’s hard,” said Puckett Daniels. “As a user at some point it might be better to just pull the plug sooner rather than later.”
Truex said they are working on that with pushing out notifications as soon as they know a bus is canceled or reduced in capacity rather than on a prescheduled timeline as it was done in the past. “And I think if we find a driver later, we can always take the notification back down,” he said.
Board member Liz Smith asked if notifications such as a canceled bus are ever posted at the physical stops as well. Truex said they aren’t.
“If people want to get the notifications, they have to sign up for the [Transit] app. We’re sending it out to 560 people now,” he said.
“The number of app users increases weekly,” added board president Janet Farmer.
Board member Anna Fenerty expressed concern for how many riders seem to be coughing and how that exposes the drivers to potential illnesses.
Truex said the RTA has done everything they can do to improve the HVAC systems on the buses and spent a lot of money during COVID to attain maximum air exchange. “The buses change airflow four times an hour, plus [air] goes through a UV light. It’s really awesome,” he said.
Smith added that the airport has also done a great deal with its HVAC system to filter and refresh airflow.
Last, Truex reported that the RTA purchased the lot at 500 S. Ninth Street in Gunnison it had under contract to be used for vehicle storage, and the RTA will gain access to the property on May 1.