Management & Operations

Coaches appeal to Aspenites

Posted on May 1, 2004 by Beverly Braga

Known for its luscious mountain scenery and upscale ski resorts, Aspen, Colo., is a haven for the rich — and not necessarily famous — to escape or dwell. The Roaring Fork Transportation Authority (RFTA) provides commuter bus service from the city to other area locales. Like other transportation agencies nationwide, it faces the challenge of converting motorists into bus riders. Serving a population below 50,000, RFTA still has annual ridership of close to three million. In order to better accommodate the community, the agency decided change was necessary. Last December, it added four Motor Coach Industries (MCI) D-Series coaches to its 89-vehicle fleet. The D4500 model coaches are wheelchair accessible, offer a 57-passenger seat capacity and provide 29 inches of legroom. Other comforts include 110-volt power outlets for laptops, LED reading lights and airflow controls. For security, each coach is equipped with interior and exterior surveillance cameras. “It’s an over-the-road coach with everything an agency could possibly want out of a bus rapid transit vehicle used on longer routes,” said Kenny Osier, RFTA’s maintenance director. “It rates as one of our greatest success stories as far as equipment goes.” Early skepticism seen
Success wasn’t instant, or even expected. Initially, much skepticism surrounded the project. Set to replace the 40-foot articulated buses used on the Aspen-Glenwood express route, many doubted the longer vehicles would be able to handle the narrow, winding terrain and city congestion along the 45-mile course. “Everybody was skeptical,” said Osier. “There was concern that maybe this wasn’t the best way to move people up and down the valley. Most of the drivers were concerned about it upfront because it was 45 feet long.” But with a convincing performance during the demonstration period, many doubters changed their attitudes. Operators took the coaches on test drives along their designated routes and soon learned that driving the vehicle was not much different than an articulated bus, except for minor adjustments to accommodate a different turning radius. A city council official who once disagreed with the project also learned to like the additions. “He pulled me aside [during a meeting] and said, ‘That’s the kind of bus that makes riding a bus enjoyable,’” said Osier. “Bigger is not better in his book, but he was impressed.” According to Osier, in spite of the early opposition, RFTA was at its wit’s end concerning its long-distance routes. Different vehicles (transit buses, over-the-road coaches, articulated buses) were implemented over the years but nothing seemed to fit. Either seating capacity wasn’t high enough, requiring additional buses to be purchased, or weather-related trouble hindered operations. Tougher than the rest
“We had such bad luck with the [articulated buses],” Osier said. “When it got to about 30 degrees, they’d get stuck. We don’t have nearly as many weather-related problems with the MCIs.” Another factor was the magnesium chloride (liquid de-icer) used on city streets, which corroded electrical connections in an articulated bus’ joint. “When buying new buses, we’ve really pushed that we aren’t asking [manufacturers] to compete against each other,” said Osier. “We were asking them to compete against the personal automobile. If we [offered] plastic seats and mediocre interiors, which would you pick? Aspen is an affluent area and personal vehicles tend to be quite nice.” Although overall ridership appears flat, what the MCI coaches have done is instill excitement within the community to hop onto a transit vehicle, something Osier thinks will continue and eventually lead to an increase in ridership. “Passengers have nothing but good things to say about them,” Osier said. “People make it a point to get to a bus stop where they know the MCIs will show up. MCI builds a nice coach, and it’s been a positive [response] all the way through.”

View comments or post a comment on this story. (0 Comments)

More News

Cleveland RTA partners with medical group to rebrand key route

Revenue from the MetroHealth Line sponsorship will be used to upgrade landscaping and bus stations along the route.

Siemens names new mobility division president

Marc Buncher brings 25 years of rail experience, including his most recent role as the sr. VP, rail division, at Caterpillar.

Mont.'s Mountain Line to extend fare-free program

Partner agencies have agreed to continue support for the program, which has bolstered ridership.

Voith executes succession plan, names new president/CEO

As planned, Dr. Hubert Lienhard, who has been in charge since 2008, will retire in 2018 upon completion of his second term in office at the age of 67, with Stephan Schaller assuming the role in April.

Transportation options could lure Amazon to Denver, report says

The New York Times recently published an analysis of roughly fifty American metro areas and used guidance that Amazon included in its request for proposals to narrow down the field.

See More News

Post a Comment

Post Comment

Comments (0)

More From The World's Largest Fleet Publisher

Automotive Fleet

The Car and truck fleet and leasing management magazine

Business Fleet

managing 10-50 company vehicles

Fleet Financials

Executive vehicle management

Government Fleet

managing public sector vehicles & equipment


Work Truck Magazine

The number 1 resource for vocational truck fleets

Schoolbus Fleet

Serving school transportation professionals in the U.S. and Canada

LCT Magazine

Global Resource For Limousine and Bus Transportation

Please sign in or register to .    Close