Riders on a Roaring Fork Transportation Authority bus this week. While routes have shifted to a curtailed offseason schedule, the transit agency is upping the frequence on Highway 82 routes and commuter connections compared to offseasons past.

Seasonal bus service cutbacks are standard operating procedure in this community but starting this week, Roaring Fork Transportation Authority bus riders will have more options than in offseasons past.

RFTA bus routes began running their offseason schedules on Monday and those schedules will remain in effect until the summer season begins June 8.

But thanks to last fall’s valley-wide vote in favor of increasing RFTA funding, RFTA has increased service on a number of key routes and connections.

Chief among the changes is bus-rapid transit service being available on Saturday and Sunday, when in the past the BRT buses ran Monday through Friday. BRT buses will now have the same schedule seven days per week, meaning service every eight to 12 minutes during morning and afternoon peak travel times and every half hour outside of that. BRT buses generally stop running after 7 or 8 p.m., depending on direction of travel.

BRT buses offer comparable travel times to a personal auto from Glenwood Springs to Aspen and points in-between, but they only stop at key stations along the route.

Local valley service, which makes all the stops along the Highway 82 corridor, will now be available with more frequent half-hour service on weeknights, from Aspen to Glenwood Springs.

Kent Blackmer, RFTA’s co-director of operations, said that the off-season service that ran once an hour was proving insufficient, especially in the weeks immediately following the end of ski season. Buses leaving Aspen in the early afternoon on weekends or on late-night runs would be packed to standing room only, he said. Increasing service to half-hour frequency late night should help alleviate that crunch. More buses will be running to Glenwood Springs, instead of stopping in El Jebel or Carbondale, he added.

The Carbondale circulator, which takes riders from the park and ride on Highway 133 into downtown Carbondale, will also run on weekends this offseason, when in the past it was a Monday-through-Friday service in the spring and fall.

Connection enhancements are also happening for riders transferring from Highway 82 buses to Snowmass Village. Shuttles will now be available to match the BRT schedule, meaning riders will spend less time waiting at the Brush Creek intercept lot.

Free Aspen taxi service on Friday and Saturday nights

A primary feature of offseason bus riding that remains in effect is that the city of Aspen routes — Hunter Creek, Castle/Maroon, Burlingame and Mountain Valley — stop at midnight Monday through Saturday and 9 p.m. on Sundays. Summer and winter schedules have those buses running until 2 a.m. and midnight on Sundays.

The city of Aspen is continuing its partnership with High Mountain Taxi to help make up for some of those service cutbacks on Friday and Saturday nights. Free taxi rides will be available from Rubey Park to any city bus stop at 12:30 a.m., 1 a.m., 1:30 a.m. and 2 a.m., but no door-to-door service is available.

RFTA will not haul e-bikes

A sure sign of seasonal change is bike racks replacing ski racks on local buses. But with the growing prevalence of electric-powered bicycles, RFTA has decided that it will not allow the machines on its racks mounted on the front of buses or on board.

Just as trail managers have had to grapple with the growing province of e-bikes, RFTA has also seen more people trying to load them on buses.

Many e-bikes are too heavy and cumbersome for some of RFTA’s bike racks, Blackmer said, so RFTA has decided the best policy is to not allow them to use the system.

In other bike news, WE-cycle’s season starts on May 1 and use of the shared bikes is free for rides of 30 minutes or less. Sign up on the WE-cycle website beginning on Wednesday evening.  

Curtis Wackerle is the editor of Aspen Daily News. He can be reached at curtis@aspendailynews.com or on Twitter @CurtisWackerle.