Is this Main Street or Grand Central Station?
December 19, 2006
Aspen, CO ColoradoWelcome to Aspen. Now get in line.The backup Tuesday morning into Aspen was as bad as it possibly could have been, given there were no major accidents slowing things down. At 7:45 a.m., the bumper-to-bumper traffic traveling upvalley on Highway 82 was about a half-mile long, from the traffic light at Buttermilk to the one at the airport. By 10 a.m., the backup went farther back, past the North 40 neighborhood. It took one employee of The Aspen Times 50 minutes – Five-oh – to drive three miles from the airport into town.At 4:45 p.m., people driving out of town were greeted with a backup that went from the intersection of Brush Creek Road and Highway 82, through the S-curves, and all the way down Main Street past the Hotel Jerome. By 5:30, traffic was reportedly backed up to Original Curve. Tuesday was worse than a bad day on Interstate 25 in Denver. It might just be the worst traffic in Aspen history.The situation is projected to get worse. At a regional transportation conference last week, officials acknowledged that without a Herculean effort, the trip up and down Highway 82 will go from bad to awful. The fastest way in and out of town Tuesday happened to be by bus. That’s likely to remain the case for much of the winter, which has yet to ramp all the way up. Bus ridership is expected to grow 10 percent this year and set a new record, despite the fact that fares increased, according to the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority. The good news is more people than ever are riding the bus. The bad news is more people than ever are opting to drive instead of riding public transit.Making public transportation a more viable option for more people is vital to our valley’s future. That will take more frequent service, more express buses and more service in towns such as Carbondale and Basalt. Fortunately, the valley already has a basic plan in place to provide more of everything. The Bus Rapid Transit system worked out after it became clear that a commuter train was not in the valley’s future as a viable and well-considered plan for beefing up public transportation.The Bus Rapid Transit system has been sitting idle for a few years now. But it’s still current and deserves reconsideration. Citizens and their local governments have a chance to confront a problem that is growing more serious with each passing season.