Mass transit is coming
Dear fellow residents of Aspen, whether you have noticed it or not, the storm clouds have gathered. It is time for a reality check for all of us.
We are going to have mass transit into Aspen, whether we like it or not. It will either be two lanes of cars and two lanes of rail, two lanes of cars and two dedicated bus lanes, or at least four lanes for cars. Those are the options and one of those will soon become reality.
If you ask why is that the case, it is because there is a coalition of interests, much stronger than the 6,000 of us, that is demanding it.
First, there is CDOT, which would like nothing better than to complete its four-lane job from Glenwood to Aspen. Building highways is what it does.
Second, there are an estimated 40,000 people (22,000 car trips) who come into Aspen each day and who are sick and tired of the traffic from Buttermilk to Main Street.
Third, they have a terrific advocate in Mick Ireland and the other members of the Pitkin County commission who are trying to accommodate them.
Fourth, Rachel Richards says we haven’t seen anything yet. She eloquently and correctly points out how much those numbers are going to increase in the near future with all the new residential construction in Snowmass and downvalley now planned or potential for the future. For example, the Base Village at Snowmass alone is projected to create 4,000 to 5,000 new car trips per day.
Fifth, the real estate community is able to build and sell houses and condos in those areas only where there are roads providing access to Aspen, and they must be supporting the development of new road infrastructure.
Sixth, our commercial interests in Aspen, stores and restaurants, are begging for people to get into this town, not only tourists, but downvalley folks also.
Seventh, they and others above have an advocate in a majority of our City Council.
While we residents of Aspen have been arguing about rail and bus lanes, they have been planning our future, and the result of that planning is the modified-direct alignment. It may be too late to grab the handle of our destiny, but perhaps not. However, in order to do that we must get over our denial and accept the fact that mass transit is coming to Aspen.
Of the three forms of mass transit described above, the only one that bothers me is four lanes (perhaps more in the future) pouring too many cars into Aspen. Everyone in America who lives outside this valley knows that in vibrant areas cars fill up all available roads.
Road construction for cars is a never-ending process. Too many cars in Aspen means too much traffic, too much pollution, too much danger to pedestrians and bicyclists, and too much need for parking decks (which is already being anticipated). Aspen is fragile and can be ruined.
My concern is that if the direct alignment is built, it will lead inevitably and by default to four lanes for cars. If we could receive a guarantee that four lanes for cars would not be built for 10 years after the direct alignment is completed, then I would vote for it in hopes that a deal for rail or dedicated bus lanes could be put together.
However, in the absence of such a guarantee, the coalition will put too much pressure on the four lanes for cars option and it will become reality, whether we like it or not. In fact, Jeffrey Evans has stated publicly that he will ask for a vote next spring on four lanes if the direct alignment passes.
Accordingly, even though I favor the direct alignment with rail, I will probably vote for the S-curves and beg our City Council to provide the leadership we need to select the best of the three mass transit options, and then approve the direct alignment coupled with that mass transit system.
On its face this vote appears to be about the location of the Entrance to Aspen, but it is much more important than that. It may determine what the entrance is.
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The Sylvan Fire burning 12 miles south of Eagle nearly doubled in size overnight into Tuesday morning. The fire has grown to 2,630 acres — a little more than 4 square miles — since it ignited Sunday afternoon.