Downtown Aspen’s main thoroughfare may see a big shift
Parallel parking could replace angle parking; bikeways and wider sidewalks on the drawing board
Aspen City Council is considering a reimagined Galena Street corridor in the downtown core that would convert parking spaces from angle to parallel, eliminating as many as 44 spots to create a safer environment for bicyclists and pedestrians.
While some have expressed hesitancy and want more information on proposed changes, council members voiced support during Monday’s work session for moving forward on eliminating the left turn from Galena Street to Hyman Avenue, which would become one-way traveling west from Hunter Street.
Designated bikeways and widened sidewalks would further separate pedestrians and bicyclists from cars traveling on Hyman, Galena and Cooper Avenue.
At the corner of Galena and Cooper, also known as the Paradise Bakery corner, extended curbs and widened sidewalks would further delineate the separation of cars and non-motorized travel.
Whether all or a portion of angle parking on one block of Hyman and one block on Cooper and two blocks on Galena from Hopkins should be changed to parallel is a question that remains unknown as the city engineering department investigates different scenarios at the request of Councilman Ward Hauenstein and Mayor Torre.
“This is such difficult stuff working through theory, and the practical application in this type of stuff is extremely difficult,” Torre said. “My hope in moving through this is to really create that different street feel, streetscape.”
The proposed changes are part of what’s called the “safety and mobility in the core” project that’s exploring through incremental changes how right-of-way space could be allocated differently to increase safety for pedestrians, cyclists and drivers, according to P.J. Murray, project manager for the city.
She cited the results of a 10-day survey the city conducted on its online platform, aspencommunityvoice.com, which show there is a high level of safety concerns from all transportation users while navigating the downtown core.
“Drivers feel more unsafe than people walking,” Murray told council. “Drivers recognize that they have potential to severely injure a pedestrian or biker in an interaction and they will likely walk away uninjured.”
About 70% of the right-of-way in downtown is allocated for cars and is occasionally shared with bicycles, and the remaining 30% is dedicated to pedestrians.
“That 70-30 split doesn’t work for me. … We really need to prioritize how we use this space,” Hauenstein said.
According to the survey results, the predominate mode of transportation used in the core is pedestrians at 50%, followed by bicycles at 31.5% and vehicles at 16%.
Those numbers indicate an inequity in space allocation and layout of the corridors in downtown, Murray said.
Council has been discussing for months shifting the priority of street corridors from vehicle dominance to a more equitable balance in which the safety and mobility for all users is prioritized.
Councilman Skippy Mesirow said if he had his way he’d close all the streets in the core to cars, but recognizes that is not feasible so any step that moves forward making the priority pedestrians and bicycles he supports.
“A walkable downtown experience would in so many ways holistically resolve so many of the challenges that we face as a community,” he said, adding that most constituents he has talked to favor the concept.
Councilman John Doyle also supports the ideas going forward but in a slow and calculated manner.
“I’m fully in support of a walkable downtown; my hesitancy in pursuing that was push back from the community on the loss of parking spaces, etcetera,” he said. “I think this is a way so we can experiment with bite-size chunks and getting feedback from the community as we go.”
By converting head-in parking to parallel, vehicle and bicycle conflicts are reduced as parallel parked cars have improved sight lines for pulling out of parking spaces rather than backing out, according to engineering staff.
Their recommendation removes 44 parking spaces of 86 total in the proposed corridor.
The annual parking revenue impact by the proposal on Galena Street is $149,500 for 23 spaces and $147,000 for 21 parking spaces on Cooper Avenue.
Council is considering adding paid parking to several blocks just outside of the downtown core to make up for the deficit of spaces.
Areas under consideration are the 200 block of East Hopkins Avenue on the north side of the street (across from Francis Whitaker Park); the 300 block of South Monarch Street on the east side of the street (across from the Limelight); the 300 block of East Durant Avenue on the south side of the street (along Mountain Chalet and St. Regis); the 400 block of south Mill Street on the east side (along the ice rink and Hyatt Grand Aspen); and the 400 block of East Main Street on the south side (along St. Mary Catholic Church).
Using all spaces along those blocks would yield 47 paid parking spaces.
Council members said they want to know how taking those spaces would affect downtown residents and carpoolers who use them.
The Galena corridor would be a pilot project that would run from spring through summer 2022 and is estimated to cost $60,500
Council also agreed to making the extension of sidewalks and curbs permanent at the intersection of Spring Street and Cooper Avenue, where City Market is located.
Temporary bollards are there as part of a pilot project, which has led to a 25% increase in pedestrian safety, according to Murray.
It has shown improvement for driver visibility as more cars stopped for pedestrians while the modifications were installed than in 2019, according to city engineers.
They recommend permanent implementation of the curb extensions with four-way stop signs, which are warranted given the heavy use in the area by cars, bikes and pedestrians.
Council members also said they support transportation mitigation like reinstituting the Galena Street Shuttle in the summer and adding capacity to the free Downtowner in-town car service, but they do not favor dedicated spaces for valet services, citing equity issues.
They also like the idea of reducing dedicated parking spaces for construction vehicles.
“I’d rather reduce construction traffic than parking and find a way to reduce the number of trucks that are bringing the tools,” Hauenstein said. “We just need the tools, we don’t need the trucks.”
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