City of Aspen expands bus service in town for workerbees
In its dogged pursuit to get people out of their cars and reduce traffic in town, Aspen City Council on Tuesday night agreed to extend summer bus service an extra month.
Extending the city’s fixed bus routes into September with the same summer hours — 6 a.m. to 2 a.m. — is one of a few components the council agreed to in what’s called a “short-range transit plan.”
The last time the plan was updated was 2009. The city hired Denver-based consulting firm Fehr and Peers for just less than $100,000; $40,000 of that was paid by a state grant.
The plan assesses the city’s existing transit system — which has a ridership of almost 1.5 million passengers a year — and makes recommendations to improve it, as well as incorporate emerging mobility technologies and options.
The other recommendations the majority of council agreed to are expanding the Car to Go car-share program, which includes adding an electric vehicle, and a program that assists small businesses with trip planning for their employees.
Those new services amount to an additional $166,000 in expenses for the city’s transportation department.
One recommendation from the consultant for 2020 drew criticism from West End residents who use the Crosstown Shuttle. Fehr and Peers suggest replacing that fixed bus route, along with Dial-a-Ride serving the Mountain Valley neighborhood, with on-demand service.
Aspen resident Gil Vanderaa, who owns Brunelleschi’s Dome Pizza downtown, said he’s tired of having to fight City Hall. He cited the city’s plans to remove dozens of parking spaces to make way for bike lanes and a recommendation from the consultant to expand no-parking zones.
“I’m not hearing ‘how can we make your life better?’” he told the council. “You are trying to change behavior and that’s not what government is for.”
He said he uses the Crosstown Shuttle a lot and doesn’t want it to go away. Other residents spoke as well, saying they rely on the service because it’s predictable.
Council members said they didn’t support combining the two fixed routes into an on-demand transit system.
Also planned for this year are exploring partnerships with car-share organizations and researching the impact of what’s called a “trip reduction ordinance.”
It would require developers or employers to meet goals for reducing the number of single-occupant vehicle trips, either over time or compared to a baseline condition. It’s achieved by providing incentives to use alternative modes or by providing financial disincentives for driving alone.
One option used by some jurisdictions is a “trip cap,” which sets a hard limit to the number of single-occupant vehicle trips that can be generated by a development or employer.
That is just one recommendation from the consultant, which created the plan with the next seven years in mind.
Some recommendations are identified as low- or high-priority. They include increasing parking fees and providing amenities at the Brush Creek Intercept Lot, like restrooms, vending machines, a trip-planning kiosk and a coffee shop or cafe.
Council will consider those recommendations and other components of the 79-page report at a later date.
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The city of Aspen’s office building is exempt from paying encroachment fees, yet private developers have to now pay $9 a square foot, per month, starting in 2020.