Dogs on Aspen buses has supporters, detractors
ASPEN ” It appears that allowing dogs on city buses might not be a far-fetched idea.
The idea was thrown out by dog owner Georgeann Waggaman on Monday to the Aspen City Council, which agreed to consider letting canines on board on a trial basis. If the council ultimately decides to allow them, dogs would only be allowed on city bus routes.
“The city contracts with us to drive the buses on routes in Aspen and the city can ultimately control the rules and regulations,” said Dan Blankenship, executive director of the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority. “RFTA is merely a provider of the service and ultimately, it’s the city’s decision and RFTA may go along with it.”
RFTA has a policy of no dogs on its buses, except if they are service dogs or if they can fit into a carrier. Blankenship said if the City Council decides to try it in Aspen, the luxury would not be extended valleywide.
“We prefer not to allow dogs on buses because of concerns of whether all customers would appreciate pets on buses,” Blankenship said, adding that it could alienate some riders because they could be allergic or afraid of dogs. Dog fights also could break out if the animals aren’t controlled adequately, Blankenship said.
“What happens when a bull mastiff and a Chihuahua are together on the bus?” he mused.
One option would be to make all dogs wear muzzles and be kept on leashes. Waggaman suggested that dog owners buy a “pooch pass,” which would hold them to whatever rules are set.
Waggaman is one of a number of Aspen residents who drive into town to do errands or go to work because they take their dogs with them.
That’s the case for Alison Blair, whose dog Bucky was recently rescued from a shelter and is at her side nearly all of the time.
“It would definitely make me ride more,” Blair said. “I always drive because Bucky goes everywhere with me.”
But if Bucky is on the bus, Caren Goodrich won’t be. The Cemetery Lane resident and avid bus rider said she is against the proposal. She said she feels that dogs have taken over the pet-friendly town.
“There’s no boundaries for dogs in Aspen anymore,” Goodrich said. “The leash laws aren’t enforced and they aren’t followed … every dog owner thinks you should like their dog.”
She added that dogs virtually have the run of town ” they’re in stores, the post office, banks and sometimes restaurants.
“It’s not that I don’t like dogs, but I don’t like the disposition that they are forced on me,” Goodrich said. “I feel like I am being imposed upon.”
Blankenship noted that if dogs are allowed on city buses, they wouldn’t be allowed to take up space that would otherwise be occupied by human beings.
“Often times, it is standing room only on the commuter [buses],” he said. “But the city’s service is much more casual and the routes are pretty short so it may not be that big of a deal.”
Jennine Hough, who works as an artist at the Red Brick Center for the Arts, said she would love to be able to put her standard poodle, Harvey, on the Galena Street Shuttle. This past summer, Harvey had two major surgeries and was unable to walk for long periods of time.
“I would have given anything to put him on the cross-town shuttle,” Hough said. “I would definitely be in support of it.”
Dogs on buses appears to work in Snowmass Village, where the service has been allowed for a “long time” without incident, according to David Peckler, head of the transportation department.
“We know which ones are good and which ones are bad,” he said, adding that the rules of the bus are that the owners control their dogs, which must be well behaved and sit on the floor.
Dogs used to ride Aspen’s Mountain Valley bus in 1995 but that service was discontinued when RFTA instituted a “no dogs” policy.
“We didn’t get a lot of backlash,” Blankenship said. “It wasn’t a huge controversy at the time.”
Dogs are allowed on public transport in Berlin and Prague, according to Todd Edelman, of the Green Idea Factory in Berlin (www.greenidea. eu.) He got in contact with Waggaman via e-mail after reading about her proposal in the Monday issue of The Aspen Times. He wrote that he is working on a project called “Dogs on Board!” which has a goal of bringing the service to more public transportation services in North America.
Blankenship said he hopes the Aspen City Council will hold a public meeting on the idea to get as much comment from both sides as possible.
“It might be a good idea to try it as an experiment and see how it goes and then survey people,” Blankenship said.
Mayor Mick Ireland on Monday said while the experiment, or a permanent service, will require significant regulation, it’s worth trying. He added that he knows many people who would leave their car at home if they could bring their dogs on mass transit.
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