Right choices made on West End traffic issues | AspenTimes.com

Right choices made on West End traffic issues

Aspen City Council members on Monday didn’t spell out the reasons why they decided not to dive too far into potential solutions to the so-called traffic problems in the West End neighborhood.

We understand why. No one with a measure of sensitivity likes to tell people they are whining and that their problems really aren’t as gargantuan as they think they are. Neither do elected officials (just kidding).

But the truth is, had the council taken extra steps – and spent taxpayer dollars – to implement measures that would crack down on outbound motorists using the “West End sneak” to get around traffic congestion on Main Street and the S-curves, their actions would have fit squarely in the category of extreme.

The same goes for the parking problems that occur every summer from events on the Aspen Meadows campus. On days when Aspen Ideas Festival programs take place throughout the campus, as well as times when Aspen Music Festival and School concerts are staged at the Benedict Music Tent, late arrivers tend to park where they can, which means next to stop signs, in front of residents’ driveways, blocking an alley, etc. This can be a problem – but only for a few weeks each year.

Perhaps council members were borrowing a page from Spock’s handbook in “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.” You’ve heard it before: “Logic clearly dictates that the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few … or the one.” Or perhaps they simply felt like some of the staff recommendations were solutions in search of a dilemma.

In the end, the city’s elected officials decided to take baby steps. They extended hours for the Crosstown Shuttle on summer event nights. They gave Police Chief Richard Pryor the green light to pay a police officer overtime for an expanded presence in the West End – on event nights only. They agreed to spend a small amount of money on bollards to slow down motorists using West Smuggler Street as a throughway along the course of the West End cut-through.

The neighborhood in question is full of part-time residents, as 2010 census figures show. It’s simply too dark for 10 months out of the year to implement a broader range of traffic-control measures.

Residents are frustrated, but they need to look at the big picture, to listen to voices of reason. At Monday’s work session, Councilman Torre jokingly hinted at the ridiculousness of closing off the West End streets to outbound motorists and maintaining it as a neighborhood-only right of way. How would the community feel if the city instituted Gestapo-esque checkpoints in the area, demanding, “Show us your papers! Where do you live?” These are, after all, public streets. The West End is not a gated community.

All Aspen residents, not just West-Enders, have had to make sacrifices for the greater good of the community. Hunter Creek-area residents no longer get the Galena Shuttle during summer months. During winter and summer tourist seasons, Main Street businesses and residents have to put up with backed-up traffic during the evening rush hour. Improvements to traffic control and construction projects around town have made for a deafening offseason in the past few weeks.

We believe the council made the right choices on Monday with respect to West End traffic-calming measures and parking enforcement. Still, it doesn’t hurt to revisit the issue every year.

Now, if we could just get those damn bicycles off the sidewalks …

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