Better entrance reporting
September 17, 2002
I like both our newspapers in Aspen and try to read them every day. However, I am astonished at what a poor job both papers are doing in providing valuable information to the voters on the Entrance to Aspen issue.
Something is wrong when you get all of your information from the letters to the editors. PLEASE assign a reporter to answer some of the tough questions so that the public will have all of the facts to make an intelligent voting decision.
Start with the following:
1. Please try to quantify the traffic problem which has led to the purported need for a new entrance. How long are people delayed in arriving and leaving Aspen? Is it a five-minute delay or a 30-minute delay?
Is it that unreasonable? What are the time periods in which the delays are really bad? Do they last for 15 minutes or one hour? In other cities commuters come early or late to avoid traffic. Can one do that here? Let’s get a handle on the problem and how bad it is, with facts and not anecdotes.
2. What is the precise cause of the problem? Surely, it is not caused by two 90-degree turns. Is it the traffic light at Cemetery Lane? Is it the roundabout? Is it the winnowing from four lanes to two lanes from Buttermilk to Main Street? If there is a problem one must understand the cause of the problem to evaluate a possible solution.
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3. If the purported problem is the winnowing from four lanes to two lanes both in and out of town, then how would a new two-lane road solve that problem? It is very hard to believe that anyone in their right mind would spend $65 million only to replace two 90-degree turns!
On the proposed new entrance, does a lane “dedicated” to buses mean legally dedicated or with physical restrictions preventing use by cars? Can it be changed in the future, and, if so, by whom?
You should advise us if the ultimate agenda is a four-lane highway for cars blasting into Main Street. As we are not voting for specific improvements in November, one can only assume that what might be built and operated ultimately is the four-laner for cars.
4. What are the possible unintended consequences of the new Entrance to Aspen? Do we not have an underlying policy of trying to encourage alternatives to more cars in Aspen?
HOV lanes encourage carpooling. Free or inexpensive fares on RFTA encourage people to use public transportation. Converting two streets in town to pedestrian-only thoroughfares also reflected that policy, as does paid parking on streets.
The scale and density of our city is inconsistent with decisions which encourage more cars. Long-range visionaries understand the need for rail as the ultimate solution, but it is a hard sell for Americans who love their cars.
Doesn’t converting two lanes to four lanes on the Entrance to Aspen simply invite more cars? Doesn’t it discourage carpooling and public transportation? Doesn’t it open the door to more traffic congestion and pollution in Aspen? Don’t more cars mean more need for parking, like the garage once proposed for Wagner Park?
We need you to investigate and comment on what might happen to our city with a new entrance. Similarly, you should try to determine the future impact of keeping the existing entrance.
5. What about experiences in other cities? For such a cosmopolitan area, Aspen can be so provincial. (For example, there are inexpensive, but beautiful, low-income housing projects now being built all over the country, projects which are indistinguishable from private, conventional projects. Instead of drawing on that experience, we build an atrocious project at the golf course which might as well have a sign on the front which says “employee housing.” I understand home cooking, but really!)
Urban planners throughout America now understand the problems of automobiles and are turning, often too late, to alternatives. Why must we make the same mistakes they have made?
We need you to report on these mistakes and how we can avoid them. We need our newspapers not to merely report on council meetings but to help educate all of us on all the issues for a decision that could change Aspen forever.