Aspen Institute convenes task force on Aspen traffic woes
IF YOU GO
What: Free public presentation on technology and traffic issues
Who: Jim Charlier
When: Dec. 13 from 5:30 to 7 p.m.
Where: Wheeler Opera House
The Aspen Institute is going to take a crack at trying to improve traffic mobility in the upper Roaring Fork Valley.
The Institute has formed the Community Forum for Transportation and Mobility along with the city of Aspen, Pitkin County, the town of Snowmass Village and private citizens. About 30 people have been appointed to a task force that is exploring transit solutions and will present ideas to elected officials and the community next summer, according to Cristal Logan, vice president at the Aspen Institute.
The goal of the task force is to develop a vision for Aspen and the upper valley that covers the next 20 years. It is focusing on quality of life, environmental sustainability, air quality and social equity.
The task force will hold private meetings but also host public discussions. The first public session will be Dec. 13 when sustainable transportation expert Jim Charlier will give a presentation at the Wheeler Opera House. The event is free and will be held from 5:30 to 7 p.m.
“Attendees will have the opportunity to learn about emerging trends and creative solutions to the traffic and transportation challenges facing Aspen and the upper Roaring Fork Valle, and ask questions of Mr. Charlier,” the Aspen Institute said in a statement.
Charlier has done a lot of work in the Roaring Fork Valley over the past 20 years. He helped Aspen’s Canary Initiative develop a model in 2015 that allows it to monitor and predict vehicular travel and vehicular carbon emissions in the town.
His firm has also performed three regional traffic-pattern studies since 1998, covering Aspen to Parachute. The most recent study was completed in 2015.
Charlier also helped write the charter that allowed the Roaring Fork Valley to create a Rural Transportation Authority, setting up the multi-jurisdiction bus system.
Charlier, reached by phone in Santa Fe, New Mexico, on Monday, said he won’t provide any silver bullets to the upper valley Dec. 13 on how to solve its transportation issues. He plans to talk about how technology and transit are so rapidly evolving and what it means to areas such as Aspen.
Charlier said he has discovered over the years that “traffic alleviation” is difficult to achieve. Taking steps like adding traffic lanes won’t necessarily alleviate congestion heading into the town during mornings and exiting in afternoons. Extra capacity typically invites extra traffic.
Likewise, taking steps like making sidewalks more inviting for cyclists and walkers will likely result in heavily used sidewalks but not necessarily fewer people on the roads, Charlier said.
There’s a lot of “latent traffic,” he said, but it is hard to measure.
After the public presentation Dec. 13, Charlier will work with the task force the following day.
Logan said there will be between three and five public speakers in a series tied to the transportation and mobility task force. She said the Aspen Institute has hosted public presentations before on community issues and it has convened closed-door task forces to seek solutions.
“This is a little bit of a hybrid of what we’ve done in the past,” she said.
The result will be less nuts and bolts of solving the upper valley traffic congestion and more about trying to “keep it at a high visionary level,” she said.
The co-chairs of the task force are former Aspen Mayor John Bennett and Bill Kane, a former Pitkin County planning director and Basalt town manager. Members include elected officials and private citizens. Aspen Mayor Steve Skadron and Snowmass Village Mayor Markey Butler are members as well as Pitkin County Commissioner George Newman.
The effort follows closely on the heels of the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority commissioning a study on regional travel issues and the city of Aspen undertaking another study of the Entrance to Aspen. Many commuters have expressed frustration with all the studies and no solutions.
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Pitkin County administrators are proposing a more than $142 million budget for 2020, which is about $6 million less than this year because of fewer construction projects and capital improvements.