RFTA must expand its vision
September 10, 2008
RFTA is organized under Colorado state law as a Regional Transportation Authority (RTA). An RTA is a tax district which can fund projects related to “any highway, road, street, bus system, railroad, airport, gondola system, or mass transit system.” In contrast, the RFTA board, made up of elected officials from eight different jurisdictions, effectively limits our RTA to being nothing more than a mass transit authority.
The first major RFTA planning effort, the Corridor Investment Study (CIS), did go through the motions of examining the full range of transportation possibilities intended by state law. Although identifying future traffic congestion as the problem to be addressed, the “technology options” considered by the CIS managed to include “automobiles on new lanes” on the same list as extravagantly silly items like “jet packs,” “dog sleds,” and “automobiles on flatbed trucks,” and then treated these ideas equally by dismissing them all with no further comment.
Claiming that reduced bus travel time would result in huge ridership increases, the
CIS authors did not examine any highway option beyond “passenger cars or trucks using Highway 82 in its present configuration,” despite the potential for highway capacity increases to provide both congestion relief and improved transit performance. The CIS set out to show that “the region’s growing traffic congestion cannot be solved with just one mode of transportation or by highway expansions alone,” but ended up confirming the exact opposite by showing no congestion improvement even with unrealistic projected transit ridership increases.
Last year, RFTA was approached with a request to create a petition process for the district that would allow local citizens to propose “outside the bus” traffic solutions. For example, the use of local tax sources for highway construction would allow us to cut through state level funding delays, and set us up for future reimbursements from the state that could then be applied to transit services.
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This year, taxpayers could have had the opportunity to weigh the relative benefits of doubling bus service on the Highway 82 corridor, or fixing the Entrance to Aspen (for example), and voting accordingly. But the RFTA board never discussed the idea of allowing citizen-initiated petitions for the use of our own tax money. It requires six out of eight votes to make such a change, and representatives of the three upper valley jurisdictions ” Aspen, Snowmass Village and Pitkin County ” made it clear they
would never vote to allow such a process.
Until RFTA expands the scope of its vision in respect to our private vehicles, transportation planning will continue to be a process akin to viewing the ocean through a glass bottom bucket ” and the results will continue to be shortsighted.
For a complete discussion of mass transit issues, readers can visit aspenpost.net, and click on the Common Sense Alliance blog.