New bus could relieve Music Festival congestion |

New bus could relieve Music Festival congestion

A group of West End homeowners met with Aspen city officials this week for one more try at untangling the snarl of car and bus traffic through the neighborhood every summer.

The meeting, which took two hours and featured preliminary results from a $25,000 citywide traffic study, was specifically meant to come up with ways to deal with traffic to and from Aspen Music Festival events.

The study, which fills three volumes and encompasses city transportation issues in general, was conducted by Jim Charlier Associates, Inc. of Boulder, and is expected to be completed by mid-January.

In recent years, West End residents have complained bitterly about the amount of automobile traffic generated by concert patrons, and particularly about the number of cars that park on neighborhood streets.

According to the study, 32 blocks surrounding the Music Tent in the West End are used as parking areas by concertgoers.

The study’s findings about how many cars ended up parked on neighborhood streets were drawn from four different Music Festival concert days last summer, on Aug. 12, 13, 14 and 15.

The report indicates that, on that busy concert weekend, the highest number of cars parked in the neighborhood during a concert was 304 on Sunday, Aug. 15, compared to 82 cars on neighboring streets a few hours before that concert. On the other three days of that weekend, the counts ranged from a low of 79 for the Saturday concert, to 273 for the Thursday evening concert, according to the study.

The situation has led to a number of efforts to cut down on the number of cars, ranging from the establishment of pedestrian-preferred streets to the use of Roaring Fork Transit Agency buses to ferry students and concert patrons to the Music Tent.

But the neighbors have also objected to the noise and smell of the buses passing along their streets, resulting in this latest attempt to quantify the problem and come up with some new solutions.

According to city transportation official Claude Morelli, the meeting at City Hall on Tuesday drew a number of West End residents and led to some preliminary conclusions about what to do regarding the traffic problem.

“It has to involve additional transit service in some way,” Morelli said.

One idea, he said, is to expand the new cross-town shuttle system into the summer months. As things now stand, the cross-town shuttle will begin in early December and end with the ski season in April.

The shuttle is meant to connect the Ute Avenue area to the West End, providing a way for people to travel across town without getting in their cars. It will use smaller, 11-passenger RFTA vehicles, and fill in gaps in transit coverage within the city limits.

City officials have expressed hope that the new cross-town shuttles, which will run on 30-minute cycles from 7:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. seven days a week, will be used by skiers, shoppers, commuters and even the lunchtime crowd.

Extension of the service into the summer, Morelli said, might cut down on the numbers of cars that travel from the east side of town to the Music Tent, if the hours of operation are matched up with the concert schedule.

And, he said, the noise generated by the smaller vehicles is similar to that of the Galena Street Shuttle vehicle, which is much quieter than traditional buses.

Morelli said RFTA also is looking into buying “hybrid-electric” vehicles, which are electric-powered with a diesel generator on board.

According to Morelli, there are still neighborhood meetings planned to further analyze the study of the West End traffic patterns, and refine any recommendations that will be taken to City Hall in January.

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