Aspen mayoral candidates offer ideas on transportation
February 7, 2019
The Aspen Times has asked Aspen mayoral candidates 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. We published answers to the same question from the four Aspen City Council candidates last week.
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?
Yes, we all see the congestion at certain times of the day and sometimes all day.
This congestion will not be solved by adding more lanes that will only bring more cars, and the congestion is a reflection of the vitality of the town.
We have been talking about this for the last several years and it is clear there is no quick fix or guaranteed fix. We should continue to work regionally with RFTA, EOTC and CDOT for new and innovative ways to address congestion.
We need to rethink the tools that came out of the Community Forum on Transportation and Mobility and the mobility lab. We can use these one at a time, or in some combination to keep chipping away at the problem until we find the bigger idea, the bigger solution.
Yes, and not just in Aspen — every desirable community has traffic issues. Traffic is a valley-wide issue that needs valley wide solutions.
Like most complex issues in this town and elsewhere in the nation, there are no silver bullets. I do not believe the traffic problem can be so much as "solved," but it can be improved, and we must continue to work on it with intention.
Our vital affordable-housing program has taken 40-plus years to build an inventory of 3,000 affordable units; they were not built in a single year.
Just as this has evolved, our traffic-management program needs to evolve. While it is not much solace, including me when I am stuck in traffic, we have already done great work.
On many aspects of traffic management, we are a leader in the nation. We have eight times the national average of bus ridership for commuters, a growing and respected bike-share program that offers last-mile solutions for some, and a trail network that is in the envy of many. However, we still have work to do.
Life is complex, and the need to shuttle kids, visit multiple job sites, pick up groceries and a myriad of other needs contribute to traffic.
The majority of people who work, live, play and visit our community need to use a car. Solutions will come in incremental steps, not all at once.
Transit ideas like direct bus service from the Intercept Lot to multiple locations around town, or working with the schools and youth organizations to find drop-off or pick-up traffic solutions should be explored.
Further focus on traffic solutions will ensure Aspen operates at the high service level we all expect and continues to work toward a better quality for life for those who live, commute and visit Aspen. We owe that to everyone.
Our main traffic problem is a local condition known as the Entrance to Aspen. We are a victim of our own success.
Aspen is a small place at the upper end of a very special valley. We are jamming a lot of people in and out every day by car, bus and commercial vehicles.
Aspen's traffic problems are exacerbated because we do not have enough employee housing in town, forcing local workers to commute greater distances to and from their jobs. The city's growth, as well as the current plan to expand the airport, will bring more visitors, more residents and more traffic.
My approach to this issue is and has always been to work on it from all fronts, serving mass transit riders better and increasing users and ridership, enhancing car-free modes, including bike and pedestrian traffic, and make overall roadway improvements.
Increasing mass transit usage is a difficult science, but there is an identifiable 10 percent increase if we focus on the potential user.
Enhancing car-free modes means continuing to connect our bike and pedestrian paths and enhance our in-town small bus services.
Possible effective roadway improvements could include a new downvalley slip lane at the roundabout, allowing travelers heading out of Aspen to bypass the roundabout, expediting traffic flow.
I also have been an advocate for a reversible three-lane Castle Creek Bridge, alternating the direction of the third lane based on the direction of the morning and afternoon commute.
It was an idea that was achievable and estimated as affordable but shelved as not the preferred choice.
There are many analogies that can be made about cramming thousands of cars into a small space, but there is no need to explain a problem we are all aware of with quirky descriptions. The flow of traffic into Aspen will not be reduced by investing hundreds of millions into new infrastructure, but if we look to the options already present, we can find the solution.
Growing up here, my No. 1 mode of transportation was the RFTA bus, which is still a more viable means of transportation in many cases; transportation on powder days, to the airport, a quick trip to the store on the Hunter Creek bus — RFTA is efficient.
If you ask me if my commute times were affected by traffic, I would argue no. We have bus lanes solely for this option, to encourage expedited entry into town, but it is still under-utilized. We have a bus system that could go head-to-head with Denver metropolis' RTD, serving a fraction of the population. I am a strong supporter of expanding community ridership through incentives, since we are already speaking about incentive options in the mobility lab/SHIFT.
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