Aspen pushing pedal on mobility lab

In its effort to reduce traffic coming into town by as many as 800 cars a day, Aspen officials propose paying people to park at the Intercept and Buttermilk parking lots.

The concept is the latest coming out of a renewed “mobility lab” experiment the city is pursuing this year, after putting the brakes on it this past winter when fundraising efforts from outside companies fell flat.

Aspen City Council is being asked tonight to approve nearly $400,000 that would be spent this year on planning as a lead up to the implementation of the lab in summer of 2019.

City staff, in their memo to council, have a target of between 500 and 600 additional cars daily that would use the Brush Creek Intercept lot during the mobility lab.

In order to convince people to get out of their cars, the city would pay motorists some amount of money — for example, $5 a day in “coin” or “miles” that would be redeemable at participating Aspen retail outlets or perhaps even national merchants. The price elasticity of incentives could be adjusted throughout the summer, according to the memo.

To further incentivize those people to park at the Intercept Lot, more buses would be employed. And not just regular buses but smaller, specialty ones that would travel directly to locations such as the public schools campus, the Aspen Recreation Center, the hospital and the Aspen Institute.

With that many additional cars at the Intercept Lot — if the incentives work — better amenities would be needed there, so tents, coffee and food are envisioned.

The lab also is designed to increase carpoolers by 200 vehicles a day. An app to coordinate motorists is part of the plan, as well as monetary incentives and creating a bike-commuting hub at Buttermilk.

Bike share, e-bike and leasing programs would allow commuters to park at Buttermilk and then shift to a bike for their final few miles into town. Bike shops could be set up there at Buttermilk, and there would be bike lockers for overnight storage.

And yet another incentive to make it easier for people to leave their cars outside the Entrance to Aspen is to provide free (no tip required) on-demand car or van service to take people wherever they want to go, within a defined service. Called “The Ride,” it would be similar to the current Downtowner service the city pays for.

Staff is asking for $369,500 to prepare for what they are calling “SHIFT 2019.” Between now and the fall, city officials will take their conceptual proposals for the lab to the community to see what the reaction is, along with finding potential donors and fundraising opportunities.

Elected officials in the fall will decide how much the city’s contribution would be to conduct the mobility experiment next summer.

In October, after the outreach efforts, a completed design of the lab’s components and fundraising results, officials will go back to council, which will “render the final go or no-go decision” on the lab, according to the memo.

The origins of the lab come from Mayor Steve Skadron. Last summer, he suggested the city “should conduct a large-scale, bold experiment that would increase mobility options while decreasing the reliance on the personal automobile,” the memo reads.

And since council has expressed no interest in expanding the Entrance to Aspen with a four-lane highway through the Marolt Open Space, which the community had debated for decades, mobility options are instead the focus.

“This mobility lab is meant to test those non-capital intensive alternatives to see if congestion can be reduced by offering a variety of mobility options to those who might avail themselves of those options,” the memo reads. “This is not meant to be a solution for everyone, but to provide some alternatives for some people, and in so doing to free up space and parking spaces for others who cannot avail themselves of those alternatives.”


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