City of Aspen’s effort to keep traffic to 1993 levels a success
The annual monthly average of vehicles crossing the Castle Creek Bridge was 22,081 in 2017, which is a slight decrease over 2016.
But the number that really matters is the traffic count from 1993, which is the target goal for the community to never exceed. That year, the monthly average was 23,675 vehicles coming into and out of town via the Castle Creek Bridge. That puts last year 6.7 percent below 1993, according to statistics released by the city of Aspen’s transportation department. Leading up to 1993, Aspen had nonattainment status because of the levels of particulate matter (PM-10) in the air. Traffic has been cited as a key factor in PM-10 pollution levels.
John Krueger, the city’s director of transportation, said being able to keep traffic levels below the target goal is a result of the municipal government’s efforts to offer a variety of transit options.
Over the years, tens of millions of dollars have been spent as part of the city’s Transportation Demand Management program, which includes increased mass transit, free buses in town, car and bike-sharing programs, paid parking and a host of other programs aimed at eliminating single-occupancy vehicles.
Asked whether single-digit decreases in traffic counts from 1993 are satisfactory given the amount of money and energy put toward the effort, Krueger said yes, given the climate.
“I think we can always do better but I don’t think we should lose sight of the fact that for 24 years we haven’t exceeded the goal,” he said. “Anywhere else in the country that wouldn’t happen.”
The lowest point of traffic was in 2010 with 21,351 vehicles traveling over the bridge. That number climbed for the next five years before trending downward in 2016.
“I got worried when we started to climb,” Krueger said, adding that’s when more measures were put into place, like raising the price of parking and adding the free Downtowner service.
There were four months last year when traffic levels did exceed 2016 — February, October, November and December. The last month to exceed 1993 levels was April 2015.
“Yes, we are still getting some congestion but it’s not the worst ever,” Krueger said. “It’s pretty darn good and shows things are working.”
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Beginning Aug. 31, the public can no longer bring plastics or cartons to the Rio Grande Recycling Center as the city of Aspen transitions from single-stream recycling to targeted collections.