Rail, not trail | AspenTimes.com

Rail, not trail

Dear Editor:

I note with interest two recent letters, regarding our public transportation.

Dorothea Farris (letters, Sept. 24) advocates a “Yes Vote” on 4A for RFTA. She also gave a brief history of the bus system with much praise for RFTA. She alluded to the demise of rail as a viable transit concept “When voters determined that the valley was not ready for a mass transit rail system.”

Susan O’Neal also wrote, in her letter entitled “We Need Light Rail” (Sept. 25) “It saddens many local visionaries that the only determining factor in creating … a light rail system … appears to be economic.” “Why not create pride in our valley … by reducing our carbon footprint …?”

To this point, I wish to note, that data is available on the Internet from the U.S. DOE

Transportation Energy Data Book, Edition 27-2008, on the energy efficiencies of various forms of transport. One will note the superior energy efficiencies of light rail over the bus. One important data point I wish to make, is the reduced BTU/passenger mile of light rail over buses. Granted, buses have greater flexibility than rail, but the unique linear alignment of this valley’s development corridor lends itself to an energy-efficient, light rail system served by feeder buses. One would hope, in this time of global climate change and the need for energy conservation, that our elected officials would grasp this concept.

Most importantly, electric light rail lends itself to being powered by renewable “non-fossil” energy. There still exists an opportunity for Aspen to install an electric light rail system between a downvalley intercept lot and the town of Aspen that would reduce the congestion of so many autos and buses within the city limits of Aspen.

A decade ago, public officials dreamed of an efficient light rail system to serve this valley. At the time of the acquisition of the Rio Grande right of way, it was the full intent of the governmental agencies involved with it’s purchase to acquire and preserve it for use as a public transit corridor.

Unfortunately, a concerted effort of misinformation, by selfish interests, coupled with the lack of foresight by a later RFTA board, has led to the decision to remove the rail and install a bike trail, as a recreation amenity for local bicyclists. Unfortunately, we squandered an opportunity to have an efficient, all-weather light rail transportation system in this valley. Given the recent history of RFTA, in regards to the Rio Grande ROW; does the RFTA acronym stand for “Roaring Fork Trail Authority”?

If RFTA expects a “yes” vote on ballot question 4A this election day 2008, they must assure the public that the transit corridor shall be preserved for future light-rail operations and not just become a recreational bike trail.

Recreational biking in the corridor is fine, as a secondary use, but to usurp and distort the original intent of the purchase, does a disservice to the general public and the taxpayers who have placed their faith in the integrity of their elected officials to make the right decisions for the good of all the traveling public.

Jim Markalunas


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