Go-time for new bus lane | AspenTimes.com

Go-time for new bus lane

Two Roaring Fork Transportation Authority buses cruise up the new bus lane on Main Street on Monday afternoon. City officials hope the designated lane will help move bus riders through town faster. (Mark Fox/The Aspen TImes)

Aspen’s new bus lane made its debut Monday, and it’s been a smooth ride so far.”We’ve seen valley buses go by full of people sailing up this lane,” said Lynn Rumbaugh, transportation manager for the city.The city began restricting parking along Main Street on Monday to create the new bus lane. From 3-6 p.m., Monday through Friday, cars cannot park on the north side of the street between Garmisch and Seventh.If you leave your car there, don’t expect a lot of sympathy from the police.”We’re down to the ticket-and-tow stage now,” said Aspen Director of Transportation John Krueger.

On Monday, however, no tickets were necessary. Krueger and Rumbaugh said several drivers were confused about the new regulations, but they moved their cars immediately and there were no conflicts.”We did several weeks of warnings ahead of time, so a lot of people knew,” Rumbaugh said. The lane is also well-marked both on the street and with signs on the side of the road.Krueger and Rumbaugh camped out at Fifth and Main streets Monday afternoon to watch the new outbound traffic pattern unfold and were pleased with the effect. They watched as several Roaring Fork Transportation Authority buses pulled into the new lane to make regular pickups. Before the bus lane, those buses would have blocked outbound traffic and exacerbated the rush-hour traffic jam. The time it takes for buses to get through town should shrink as well. Krueger and Rumbaugh clocked one bus at two minutes from the Rubey Park Transit Center to a spot at Fifth and Main; the same distance has been known to take up to 10 minutes, depending on they day.”We want people on the buses to be able to get out [of town] quickly,” Krueger said.The real test will come in another week or two, when high season really kicks into gear. During the offseason, roughly 21,000 cars drive in and out of Aspen on a given day. In July and August, that number jumps to 29,000, which Krueger said can translate into cars backed up for six or seven blocks.

Although city officials are grateful for the chance to move buses through town faster, they know the new bus lane isn’t a solution to the city’s traffic problem. The hope is that anything that improves the bus-riding experience will encourage more people to get out of their cars and onto the bus.”[The new lane] wasn’t intended to solve traffic congestion at all,” Krueger said. “It’s to help buses that have 40, 50, 60 people on them get out of town quicker.”Old Snowmass resident Tony Fusaro has been riding the bus for almost a decade. He credits similar changes, such as bus upgrades and better schedules, with improving his riding experience.But will the small changes add up to bigger ridership numbers?”If it gets more cars off the road, it’ll help everybody,” Fuasro said, but, “Some people are never going to get out of their cars.”Fusaro said he would wait to pass judgment on new lane, but he doesn’t anticipate it helping the overall traffic problem much.

“I hope it works,” he said. “But they just have to get rid of the damn S-curves.”I can’t imagine it’s going to be a whole lot of help because you still have to go into two lanes when you get off Main.”Krueger understands the frustration. He emphasized that the success of the new lane can’t be measured by whether traffic backs up, but on whether it helps bus riders get out of town faster. “Looking at it today, that’s exactly what it did,” he said. “It’s working just like it’s supposed to.”Abigail Eagye’s e-mail address is aeagye@aspentimes.com

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