If it’s free, people will ride | AspenTimes.com

If it’s free, people will ride

To: Aspen City Council and Pitkin Board of County Commissioners

From: Doug “Merc” Mercatoris, Mayor, Snowmass Village

Re: Public transportation

Aspen and Snowmass Village share many common interests and goals. We share a desire to protect our environment and quality of life through such things as the Canary Initiative, green building and mass transit to get cars off the roads.

We share our tourists who stay in Aspen but ski and recreate in Snowmass Village (studies show up to 45 percent of cars parked for skiing in Snowmass Village originate in Aspen).

In Snowmass Village, we share our tourist who stay in Snowmass Village but shop and dine in Aspen (studies show up to 50 percent of dollars spent in Aspen). We share working people who live in Aspen but work in Snowmass Village we share working people who live in Snowmass Village but work in Aspen. We share a second homeowners group that creates jobs and spending which help our economies.

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These are the people that spend the money that create the tax dollars that we are elected to spend wisely.

The reasons that I support making the bus system free between our two communities are as follows.

Snowmass Village is dedicated to the regional system and has built a park and ride and a transit facility at our town park, and other shared facilities such as bus stops at no cost to the Elected Officers Transportation Committee. The EOTC should maximize the park and ride at Brush Creek for the benefit of Aspen and Snowmass Village by making the bus service free to both communities from the Highway 82 and Brush Creek park and ride.

The bus system in Aspen is free, the bus system in Snowmass Village is free, the skier shuttle is free. We all use different funding sources to make this happen we feel that for consistency, everything above Brush Creek and 82 should be free. The EOTC has the funds available to accomplish this goal while still banking money for future uses.

Making the bus system free in the upper valley demonstrates that we take our green goals seriously and will put our money where our opinions are. It will slow the pace of increasing congestion on Highway 82 and Brush Creek, but mostly in Aspen where our mutually held problem is the most severe.

The summer experiment proved an increase in ridership greater than the increase in occupancy or sales tax revenue would indicate, thus taking cars off the roads and helping the environment and easing congestion.

EOTC funding is created in the upper valley for the most part in Aspen and Snowmass Village. We have over and over again shown our commitment to regional transit goals both in funding and principal we should continue to do so but there is nothing wrong with spending money raised here to benefit our special communities by being special and making the service free.

Some have said that this is for Snowmass Village. Although I brought it up at the EOTC meeting, I did not do so because it benefits one jurisdiction more that another. We need to look at how it benefits the upper valley and support a free system. Currently there is a fare from Highway 82 and Brush Creek to both communities. We can capture more cars here with a free system. This is our largest intercept lot and serves both communities.

I hope that this information is helpful to your decisions and I hope that all three boards reaffirm the decision of majority at the EOTC’s last meeting.