Free Aspen-to-Snowmass bus service here to stay
June 7, 2014
Public officials made the decision Thursday to fund the no-fare bus service between Aspen and Snowmass Village in the long term.
Additionally, the town of Snowmass Village will no longer be solely responsible for paying for the service in the summertime. The Elected Officials Transportation Committee, made up of the elected leaders from Snowmass, Aspen and Pitkin County, will cover the cost with their joint budget, which is funded by a half-cent sales tax applicable in each jurisdiction.
The politicians had other spending problems to address, though. They also voted to restore money pulled from capital funds to help pay for the Aspen Business Center pedestrian underpass and to make savings accounts created for two big projects — the entrance to Aspen and a transit center in Snowmass Village — more flexible.
Most of the elected officials agreed that what is meant by the "entrance to Aspen" doesn't have to apply only to an envisioned reconstruction of the stretch of Highway 82 from the airport to Main Street.
Rather, it could be any "tool to solve some kind of traffic problem," as Aspen Councilman Adam Frisch said. "If all of a sudden there's less cars on the road, then we don't have an entrance-to-Aspen problem.
"The entrance to Aspen … is just a bunch of ways to figure out how to solve a traffic problem. I think it does broaden what we can use."
Similarly, Snowmass Village Mayor Bill Boineau said he might be willing to allocate funds from the Snowmass Village transit center savings account to, for example, an enhancement of the Brush Creek intercept lot.
"It could be a more regional thing could help us all out," Boineau said. "It makes more sense to use these dollars collectively."
A point that was repeated consistently was that any project would have to be approved by the three governments on the committee anyway.
Another issue that the officials will address in the future is how to fund the redevelopment of the Rubey Park Transit Center, which is 60 percent to design, according to a memo from county Treasurer Tom Oken and consultant Bob Schultz to the committee. The committee will be asked to contribute from $1.5 million to $2 million for that in 2015.
Tough Mudder to use Brush Creek lot
The committee also voted to allow Tough Mudder, an obstacle-course mud run that is staging an event in Snowmass Village in September, to use the Brush Creek intercept lot for participant parking.
Representatives from Tough Mudder said they modeled their proposed parking and traffic-flow system after the Winter X Games, which has used the lot similarly for a number of years.
The event on Sept. 6 and 7 is expected to draw about 10,000 participants and spectators on its first day and 3,000 on the second, said Courtney Jordan, Tough Mudder senior operations manager. Snowmass hotels are already 60 percent full for the weekend, which she said means most people traveling in will be able to park their vehicles at their lodges.
Pitkin County Commissioner Michael Owsley said he would like for part of the lot to be reserved for commuting valley residents. Aspen City Councilwoman Ann Mullins also pointed out that Tough Mudder's plan did not allow for commuters to exit left, or upvalley, from the lot.
Blake Fitz, of the city of Aspen Parking Department, said the Jazz Aspen Snowmass Labor Day event and Winter X Games use a similar system and that "it's been proven." However, he said it has never included only a downvalley exit.
Roaring Fork Transportation Authority CEO Dan Blankenship commented that the number of commuters using the lot on an offseason weekend is likely to be low.
Owsley also said he didn't want Tough Mudder using the lot for equipment trailers.
"If it's just Tough Mudder vehicle parking, I have no problem with it," Owsley said. "As long as it's safe … and doesn't interfere with RFTA."
The three jurisdictions voted unanimously in favor of allowing Tough Mudder to use the lot as long as their plan addresses the concerns the officials raised.