Business leaders need to have voice in transportation debate
August 8, 2006
The announcement last week that a new business group had formed to help the city of Aspen and its citizens tackle one of its thorniest issues is welcome news.Bill Dinsmoor, Ernie Fyrwald, Dwayne Romero, David Perry, John Starr, Howie Mallory, Tony Mazza and a handful of other successful members of the business community announced the formation of the Aspen Business Improvement League with the promise to begin a bicycle-sharing program before next summer. It’s the first shot in what will hopefully become an active role from the business community in the transportation debate.Wouldn’t be nice if this latest infusion into the never-ending debate over transportation and the Entrance to Aspen pushed the community toward a solution – and, dare we say it, an end – to the problem?We don’t know at this point what solution the group might eventually support for the Entrance to Aspen, but the group has the potential to be important just by virtue of representing a broad cross-section of Aspen businesspeople. Hopefully its formation will engage some of the community’s most successful, intelligent and interested members, people with much at stake in Aspen’s future, in the ongoing discussion about transportation, development and other important issues. If the ABIL’s plans come to fruition, it will reinvent itself as a business improvement district that taxes businesses within its boundaries and spends the money to improve the business climate in town. Those who don’t think Aspen’s awful traffic degrades the business climate, just as it degrades community, are fooling themselves. Hundreds, if not thousands, of downvalley residents – a great many of them former Aspenites – purposefully avoid Aspen on the weekends because they don’t want to get stuck in traffic.By starting with a bike-sharing program, the business leaders involved with ABIL have made it clear that transportation is an important issue. The group has also made it clear that its most important constituency – the center of its world – is Aspen. Bicycles won’t do much to reduce the morning lineups from Sardy Field to Seventh Street, or the afternoon lineups from Main Street to Truscott. But they will likely make it easier on those who live in town or commute to work on the bus. The bicycle-sharing program is a small but real contribution toward fixing a large and long-running problem.Certainly there is room for business leaders at the table, just as there is for community activists, government leaders and the press. We welcome their involvement.