Officials hoping to prevent traffic mess after concerts
Aspen Times Staff Writer
The last time a major act played a concert at the Buttermilk ski area, it was called a good show by fans but a traffic nightmare by local officials.
Fans of the band Widespread Panic parked up and down the length of Highway 82, causing traffic jams and unsafe conditions.
This weekend, Jazz Aspen Snowmass officials are confident things will go smoother because of the free or discounted bus shuttles they have set up and the off-site parking for up to 2,000 cars in the Cozy Point hay meadow at the intersection of Highway 82 and Brush Creek Road.
That setup worked well this winter for the ESPN Winter X Games, which were also held at Buttermilk.
But concerts are different than the X Games in that everybody is expected to leave the concerts at the same time after the headlining band wraps up.
The shows are expected to attract 6,000 people tonight and 10,000 people Saturday, Sunday and Monday nights. The X Games also attracted about 10,000 fan, but people came and went throughout the day, and crowds were relatively thin at day’s end.
Another difference for this event is that it will cost $5 to park at Cozy Point while it was free at the X Games.
“We suggested that they not charge there,” said Paul Hilts, operations manager for the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority. “As soon as people drive up there and find they have to pay $5, they are going to drive closer and try and find a place to park. And that’s really a concern for the traffic control people.”
There is only VIP parking at Buttermilk, and there will be no legal parking on Highway 82 or Owl Creek Road.
“We expect people are going to try and park there, and we are going to tell them not,” said Mario Stroble of the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office. “I would encourage everybody not to bring their cars and to ride the bus.”
At the Snowmass venue across the Rodeo Lot, it has always cost to park for concerts. But people could then walk to the show after parking. At Cozy Point, patrons will have wait for a free shuttle bus to take them up the road to the show.
“Any special event in the country charges for parking,” said Joe Lang, a producer for JAS.
When the X Games came to town, ESPN contracted out for the use of the Cozy Point lot so that it was free to drivers. But Jazz Aspen is not paying for the lot. Instead, they are letting the lease-holder, Monroe Summers, charge $5 for parking on the site.
The issue of paid parking at Cozy Point, and the relative disincentive it provides, was not an issue during the Pitkin County approval process for the special-event permit.
“It was clear that they are going to do that, and there was no discussion of it,” said Lance Clarke of the county’s community development office. “They laid out the parameters of their transportation and parking plan, and they specifically said they were going to charge $5 and provide free shuttle service. The application said it was to defray the costs of the event.”
Once people do park at Cozy Point, there will be free shuttles to the concert running every 10 minutes starting at 3:30 p.m. today and 10:30 a.m. on Saturday, Sunday and Monday.
There will also be free parking in the 220-space intercept parking lot across Highway 82 from Cozy Point. Free buses will leave there every 15 minutes starting at 3:30 p.m. today and at 10:30 a.m. over the weekend.
Free shuttles from Rubey Park in downtown Aspen will run to Buttermilk. They will leave every 15 minutes starting at 3:45 p.m. today and 10:45 a.m. over the weekend and on Monday.
The town of Snowmass Village also plans to run free shuttles from the Daly Lane transit plaza below the mall to Buttermilk. They will every 15 minutes starting at 4 p.m. today and at 11 a.m. over the weekend.
All ticket holders will also be able to ride a RFTA bus to the show from anywhere in the system for $2 round trip, providing they show a ticket or a ticket voucher.
The real crunch time will be right at the end of the shows, which will be around 9:30 p.m. Buses will be cycling to and from various parking lots and locations as quickly as they can, but RFTA and local law enforcement officials expect that it will take some time to clear the concert site.
“That’s our biggest concern,” said Stroble. “When the people walk out of the concert there is going to be a whole lot of pedestrians on the road.”
Concertgoers should also note that for this weekend’s Buttermilk shows, a no re-entry policy is in place. It’s a new policy for these shows to try to prevent people from leaving the show and slipping their wristbands to someone else.
“Once you are in, you are in,” said Lang. “At most special events, you can’t come in and out of it throughout the day. We are trying to stick to our permitted numbers, and that is the best way to control the numbers. We know we have a home-run lineup and every day is going to be a big day.”
And concertgoers should be aware that the Buttermilk site is a tad rugged. As JAS put it in a press release, “Please keep in mind that the festival is on a ski mountain and to wear appropriate clothing and footwear.”
And that means an evening sweater and maybe a rain jacket. The forecast for tonight was for partly cloudy skies with overnight lows between 35 and 48. Saturday, Sunday and Monday are to expected to be partly cloudy with a slight chance of showers and overnight lows between 38 and 48. Daytime highs should be in the 70s.
[Brent Gardner-Smith’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org]
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