Aspen’s second busiest bus stop to see more than $1M in improvements
Aspen City Council on Monday agreed to a new bus pull-off on Garmisch Street as part of a $1.3 million Paepcke Transit hub project that will improve the second-most used mass transportation area in the city.
The new feature will be a pull-off area on Garmisch just south of the Molly Gibson Lodge and alley that will allow people to disembark and step onto a sidewalk that will lead to them to a mid-block pedestrian crossing, as well as one at Hopkins Avenue or Main Street.
Currently, the bus comes to a stop in the street at the lodge’s parking lot, and people disembarking must step onto the street and then walk across to catch a sidewalk.
John Krueger, the city’s director of transportation, said it’s a dangerous situation for pedestrians and he has experienced it personally.
“What we are hoping is this will formalize the stop, keep people from scattering all over the place,” he said. “I used to get off there all the time to go to our offices in the Yellow Brick and it was a kind of a jailbreak off the bus and it was a little sketchy at times, so we want to get the buses off to a safe spot for pedestrians.”
Talek Farouki, whose family owns a single-family home directly next to the bus pull-out, asked the council to reconsider its decision.
“Moving and establishing a permanent stop at this location will cause a lot of problems,” Farouki said during Monday’s work session.
He also said he was only contacted in July by city officials while other stakeholders have been discussing the project since last year.
City officials working on the transit hub project pointed out that Farouki’s house is set back and blocked by trees, and the pull-off is in the right of way.
Councilwoman Rachel Richards said the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority selected Garmisch Street for its bus rapid transit route to get to Rubey Park in the fastest way possible.
She said she has to take 3 million riders’ safety into account.
“I apologize for the inconvenience in the location, but I don’t really see a better or safer location and I think this is an improvement that’s long overdue,” she said.
The transit project is in its third phase, with construction to begin next year, according to Mike Horvath, the city’s project manager.
The conceptual cost estimate for construction is approximately $1.3 million, of which just over $650,000 will be covered by a state grant and $100,000 by RFTA, local development and a small-lodging program.
Major improvements at the outbound bus stop across from Paepcke Park on Main Street also are planned to create a safer, more comfortable location.
It will include a bus shelter that could fit as many as 30 people, as well as real-time transit signage and other amenities.
Currently that bus stop, which serves all outbound buses, has just a three-person bench and a trash can.
The Main Street pedestrian crossing at Garmisch Street is one of the busiest non-signaled crossings in the city, according to Horvath.
Pedestrians are required to cross five lanes of traffic on Main Street and loading buses and vehicles can impair visibility, he added.
“Additional concern for staff is the high number of kids that utilize this area due to the proximity of the school,” he wrote in a memo to council.
The project addresses that with a raised island between the bus lane and vehicle lanes with a rectangular rapid flash beacon. This allows for increased sight by vehicles when buses are loading, and provides a pedestrian refuge while crossing.
The changes are based on almost a year’s worth of public outreach and surveying bus drivers and supervisors.
Mayor Torre said he wants as much focus on pedestrian safety and traffic calming as possible at the Garmisch and Main Street intersection.
“That’s a hot intersection, there is a lot of pedestrian activity there,” he said. “It’s on the edge of our core and people are hauling butt there.”
The Aspen Ambulance District seeks a property-tax increase to keep up its level of service, and the Pitkin County commissioners showed initial willingness this week to put the question on the Nov. 8 ballot.
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