New business league takes shape
August 30, 2006
Building membership was at the top of the agenda Wednesday at the first meeting of the Aspen Business Improvement League. But the 35 or so businesspeople who attended spent most of their time talking about transportation and parking.The overwhelming feedback from local business owners has been about Aspen’s traffic and parking woes. “Any of you who’ve waited in Aspen traffic have wondered what we can do about this,” said Ernie Fyrwald, an owner of Morris and Fyrwald Real Estate and a founding member of the business league.With increased congestion in town, Fyrwald and other business league members still plan to implement a citywide loaner-bike system.”We don’t have to reinvent the wheel,” Fyrwald said. “This is happening in cities around the world.” Fyrwald pointed to successful loaner-bike programs in Oregon and Montana, as well as Copenhagen, Denmark. He proposes small docking stations at town crossroads – the post office, for example – where locals and visitors could borrow a simple, one-speed bicycle and return it to any other dock in town. One option has bicycle borrowers swiping a credit card as security on the borrowed bike; another includes GPS tracking.Advertising on the bicycles, not taxes, would pay for the loaner system, Fyrwald said. He is asking the city for space to set up the bicycle docking stations. The plan is now under discussion.”We think it is a step in the right direction,” he added.Steve Barwick, city manager, and Randy Ready, assistant city manager, outlined city efforts to address local traffic and parking problems.”RFTA revenues are not keeping up with expenses,” Barwick said. He said recent budgetary shortfalls at the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority and the city-owned Rio Grande parking garage inspired a ballot referendum that would increase local sales tax to fund transportation. Barwick said there were three chances for the initiative to pass before the bus system would, under current budgeting, face financial collapse as quickly as 2009.Main Street Bakery owner Bill Dinsmoor talked with Colorado Department of Transportation engineers recently about traffic lights on Main Street.”Our goal is to get CDOT involved and find out why the lights do what they do,” Dinsmoor said.The solution to the town’s traffic bottleneck and troublesome lights, Dinsmoor said, is going to be “phenomenally expensive and take a long time to resolve.”The Aspen Business Improvement League is a voluntary coalition of local business owners.The league is actively seeking new members, at a cost of $500 per business. Dues help pay legal fees and consultants. In the future, the group hopes to become a business improvement district that taxes members and spends the money on marketing and other local issues that affect the business community.”In the meantime,” Fyrwald said, “Walk, bike, hitchhike, ride the bus, and join the Aspen Business Improvement League.”Charles Agar’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.