Rider’s complaints prompt action

By Lynn Burton

Sopris Sun Staff Writer

Prompted by complaints from a bus rider, the town trustees voted 4-3 on Tuesday night to ask RFTA to delay its Carbondale circulator bus until 2014.

Joanne Teeple told the trustees Tuesday night she was “disgruntled” and “disgusted” over the new circulator route, which RFTA will implement on Dec. 14, and that other riders are “fairly apoplectic.”

Her complaints include: what she said was a lack of outreach on RFTA’s part to explain the new route to riders; no specific schedule for the circulator bus to the Highway 133 park-and-ride lot; that riders will literally be left standing in the cold; that the circulator should have been introduced in the fall so that RFTA could work out the bugs, rather than in the coldest/busiest month of the year; and a broader complain that RFTA riders themselves are not being represented on the board.

Immediately after the 4-3 vote, mayor Stacey Bernot e-mailed RFTA CEO Dan Blankenship to explain what the trustees did and ask to meet with him on Dec. 11. Within minutes, Blankenship replied to Bernot: “There is a lot involved in delaying the launch of the circulator. I can explain when we speak tomorrow, but it isn’t realistic to do so by Saturday. The entire valley schedules, driver shifts and public information will need to be redone and that isn’t feasible at this late date. It’d be a big project.”

Trustee Allyn Harvey made the motion to ask RFTA to delay the circulator launch until 2014 and to leave the current service in place in order to educate the public (in Spanish and English) on how it works. Voting with Harvey were Bernot, Hoffmann and Pam Zentmyer. Voting against were Frosty Merriott, John Foulkrod and Elizabeth Murphy.

On Wednesday, Dec. 11, Bernot e-mailed trustees to report she’d met with Blankenship to discuss Carbondale’s concerns and he will attend next Tuesday night’s work session to discuss the circulator bus and related RFTA issues.

Responding to a Sopris Sun e-mail on Dec. 11 asking why RFTA wants to start a circulator bus, RFTA spokeswoman Dawn Mullally Chase said, “Because of BRT we have so many more choices for people. The problem is that in order for the VelociRFTA bus to be fast it must stay on a main route with less stops. Carbondale is the only town that … deviates from Highway 82 at all. This is an attempt to give Carbondale residents full access to these possibilities. The service is going to be free and very frequent. All other circulator services in our valley are paid for by the community – Ride Glenwood, City of Aspen circulators, Town of Snowmass Village, etc. They also typically don’t have this frequency. This is RFTA’s way of trying to ensure that the residents of Carbondale can easily avail themselves to the full spectrum of services we offer.”

Getting back to Teeple, as she left Tuesday night’s meeting she said she was “thrilled” to get the response from the trustees that she did, then joked, “I (just) came in to carp.”

In other news from Tuesday night’s meeting:

• Trustees approved a $16.2 million budget for 2014;

• Approved a lease to a pending non-profit to allow the James Surls Center for Visual Arts to operate in the former Gordon Cooper Library building on Fourth Street.