Aspen City Council candidates: Aspen’s traffic problems can be solved
The Aspen Times has asked candidates for Aspen City Council to answer five questions about who they are and what their positions are on various issues facing the community.
We are publishing one question and their answers from the candidates each day this week, Monday through Friday.
Today is the fourth question about Aspen’s traffic problems.
Question 4: Does Aspen have a traffic problem? If yes, what’s your solution? If no, why do you believe that?
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High-end hotels in Aspen average two employees per bedroom to meet the 24/7 expectations of their guests. Adding 322,000 square feet with 185 rooms, 10 condos and a ski museum with only two one-bedroom affordable units onsite for the Lift 1 base will increase traffic congestion.
When you find yourself in a hole, stop digging. Adding more demand like Gorsuch without fully mitigating the impacts makes our traffic congestion worse.
Our most pressing problems revolve around carrying capacity. Whether it be residential or commercial, free market or affordable, demand for the “Aspen brand” is unlimited. We cannot build our way out.
A plan to spend $800,000 of your money to add subsidized trips via Lyft to an already-congested system was but one facet of the failed SHIFT/mobility lab that finally collapsed under the colossal weight of its expense of effort and money.
Adding traffic capacity only provides an excuse to ask even more workers to commute every day versus the more difficult solution of finding them a home within our community.
Instead of continuing to dig the hole deeper, we need to have the difficult community conversation about how much and what type of development we are willing to take on.
Our current approach looks at individual projects as silos without consideration for the accumulating effects development is having on our community.
I was alone in this council in my attempts to put a carrying capacity discussion on our top 10 goals, which is why we only have a top 9 goal list.
I hope the next council will be willing to take on the discussion of carrying capacity. By continuing to kick the carrying capacity discussion down the road, we continue to dig the hole deeper and we become a hollowed-out community of commuters like Vail.
Yes we have a traffic problem, which will worsen over time given the growth in Snowmass, Basalt and the midvalley, and because of Aspen’s increasing dependence on a commuting workforce.
I’m hopeful that the passage of new resources for RFTA will make it easier for more folks to travel without their cars, including the increased integration with We-Cycle.
Short-term we should fully utilize the Brush Creek Intercept Lot by upgrading its capacity and facilities.
The city should convene a working group to encourage private sector cooperation for shared use of courtesy vehicles, and to integrate existing commercial transportation providers into traffic mitigation and mobility programs.
New efforts to entice our guests to use transit is equally important. I believe we send the wrong message with valet parking on Durant Avenue, encouraging those who can afford it to drive through the core to one of our busiest streets.
Aspen’s goal of maintaining 1993 levels of traffic crossing Castle Creek Bridge has been accomplished with incentives and disincentives.
RFTA as an incentive alleviates thousands of car trips a day. Our disincentive is $6 an hour parking, effective yet not without downsides, discouraging local spending, visitation and adding to the elitist image of Aspen. How high will we go, and to what end, a downtown only the very wealthy can afford to visit?
Commissioning a new environmental impact study (EIS) for different entrance configurations over the Marolt property would cost millions, take years and wouldn’t result in a different “preferred alternative” than the current EIS (modified direct connection with transit) unless the community changed its goals regarding traffic and community character.
Our traffic problems won’t be solved with wishful thinking, but by respectfully working through hard choices and long-range alternatives. We must work to create the future we want, not just fight the future we don’t.
Many of us moved to Aspen with the intention of leaving the worst of city life behind. We would be happier, healthier, greener and more comfortable with less traffic and fewer parking issues. Alleviating both is a worthwhile goal. That said, some perspective is important: people need their cars.
This problem is simpler than our council has made it out to be. According to studies, we need only reduce peak traffic by 12 to 20 percent to eliminate the traffic problem.
If our initial goal was to house 60 percent of our workforce in town — and we are at 38 percent and falling — and if 40 to 50 percent of our traffic is construction and maintenance, then we need to start there.
More housing within city limits will reduce downvalley car use. Our current city council and staff fail to speak to those who are impacted, or impact an issue. Workers need their cars — I do for my job — but there are areas we can reduce vehicular use.
I would work one-on-one and in group settings with the construction and management community to find creative solutions to reduce vehicle use.
We don’t want to sit in traffic or pollute our environment. If we actively work on each of these two areas, we can significantly alleviate or eliminate the problem by reducing overall vehicular use near or beyond that 12 to 20 percent target.
Traffic is only a problem if you are sitting in it.
New York has a traffic problem. L.A. has a traffic problem. Chicago has a traffic problem.
I live on a bus route by the hospital. On a typical day, I catch the 5:20 p.m. bus in the evening and I’m home by 5:30 p.m.
I consider it a win when it takes me less time to get home than it does waiting in line at the post office.
There are certain times a year, like X Games, when the wait in traffic out of town is especially long. To me, what we call traffic is just one of the tradeoffs you deal with when you live in Aspen.
During the bridge construction this past summer, the sentiment from the city was traffic flowed pretty good using the detour.
The detour was Power Plant Road and the West End neighborhood. Any other time of year this route is discouraged unless you live in the neighborhood.
Since it worked so well during the bridge construction, maybe we should open it up permanently as a formal secondary means of egress.
I think a lot of our traffic issues are self-imposed from the dedicated pedestrian way down Hopkins to not encouraging the use of Power Plant Road. I don’t think putting a four-lane through the Marolt open space or a straight shot are the answers.
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Tuesday is election day in Basalt. A new mayor will be elected and three council seats filled. Town officials are urging residents not to wait until the last day to cast their ballots.