Officials: shuttle service at Aspen Jewish center is key to operation

Carolyn Sackariason
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

ASPEN ” Aspen transportation officials, weighing in on the anticipated traffic increase along Ute Avenue if a new Jewish community center is placed there, say it’s unreasonable to expect that all of the parents using the daily preschool will use a shuttle to take children there.

And that’s why the Jewish Resource Center Chabad of Aspen propose that if parents don’t take advantage of the free shuttle service, they’ll be charged a daily fee for dropping off or picking up children at the site, which is the former location of the Silver Lining Ranch.

It’s part of a proposed traffic demand management program outlined by the Jewish Community Center (JCC) that the Aspen City Council will review Monday night.

JCC representatives are asking the council to approve conversion of the 14,000-square-foot building, which was used as a children’s cancer retreat from 1999 to 2006, into a community center that will include a preschool, a synagogue and a venue for special events like weddings and religious services.

A sticking point for approval is how much the new center will contribute to traffic problems on what area residents say is an already overburdened and dangerous Ute Avenue.

Jeff Ream, a Denver-based traffic engineer hired by the Jewish Resource Center Chabad of Aspen, told the Aspen City Council in April that the new center would generate between 125 and 140 car trips a day, depending on what programs or events are being held. That’s about 100 car trips more than what was generated by the Silver Lining Ranch.

Traffic engineers say there are currently 1,500 car trips along Ute Avenue on a daily basis.

The JCC anticipates about 10 special events for 2010, including Passover, bar mitzvahs, lectures, weddings, Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur. Free shuttles will be provided for attendees, and invitations will stipulate that there is no parking at the site. The only parking that will be allowed on site will be for the event hosts, catering staff and others employed for the events.

JCC representatives suggest in their application that they will conduct a traffic audit to the site within a year of occupying the ranch. An independent contractor, hired by the JCC and approved by the city, would determine whether the preschool and special events have been able to achieve close to 100 percent of people using shuttles.

If the JCC doesn’t achieve its stated transportation goals, officials will agree to a hearing before the Aspen Planning and Zoning Commission to review additional traffic demand and how to address it.

John Krueger, the city’s director of transportation, said if it’s the council’s desire to establish a finite limit on traffic, a monitoring program and audit are crucial, according to a memo submitted to the City Council.

“Staff recommends that the ‘traffic audit’ proposed by the applicant be expanded to include total daily traffic and parking counts for a two-week period in March and again in July,” Krueger wrote in the memo.

The council meeting begins at 5 p.m.