The Roaring Fork Transportation Authority will tackle its ambitious bus-rapid transit project in 2013 with an increased budget, which was approved by the organization’s board of directors Thursday.
The budget anticipates nearly $47.5 million in revenue, a 1.3 percent increase over 2012, and about $48.7 million in expenditures, a 9 percent increase, as RFTA continues building the $46 million bus-rapid transit (BRT) overhaul.
Included in the expenditures is $680,000 in incremental operating costs for BRT, which is expected to cost RFTA $2 million more annually to operate once it is fully running in 2014. Increased ridership is expected to offset some of that new cost.
Next year will also see a 9 percent increase in the agency’s health insurance costs, a merit-based raise for staff of up to 3 percent and two new positions, said Michael Yang, RFTA’s finance director.
The budget reflects a 3 percent drop in what RFTA will pay for diesel and unleaded gas, $3.45 and $2.89 a gallon, respectively. Those prices are locked in through 2013.
“Our procurement department really helped with that,” Yang said.
The revenue picture anticipates a 4 percent increase in sales taxes, which fund the bulk of RFTA operations, based on member jurisdictions’ estimates. RFTA’s board is comprised of elected officials from Aspen to New Castle.
Agency CEO Dan Blankenship said the difference between revenue and expenditures will be made up by dipping into two pools of money, one of which is funded by a 0.4 percent sales tax increase for BRT that voters passed in 2008. That will allow RFTA to maintain a $15 million general fund balance.
BRT involves, among other amenities, building expanded park-and-ride lots, stop-light technology that recognizes buses, bus-tracking software for passengers and RFTA managers, and improved bus stops, all in an effort to make transportation more rider-friendly and efficient.
Aspen City Councilman Steve Skadron asked Blankenship how much of the agency’s current service will be replaced by BRT.
Blankenship said that is hard to predict, as is future ridership demand and revenue. With new express and direct routes, the estimated 230,000 driver hours annually could increase by 10,000 to 11,000 hours, he said.
“We’re going to be running more miles, and we will probably need more maintenance,” Blankenship said.
The budget passed unanimously.