The Great Race
July 6, 2006
Traffic is Aspen’s biggest and longest-running news story, with the possible exception of real estate development or dog piles on the trails.As a matter of fact, everyone in The Aspen Times newsroom hates anything to do with the Entrance to Aspen; no matter what you write, it’s already been written. Virtually every Entrance story is recycled news, because fundamentally nothing has changed for 20 or 30 years. We hate the meetings, we hate the rhetoric, we hate the red tape and, most of all, we hate the traffic.Remember last summer, when it could take a half-hour just to reach the Castle Creek bridge? It’s sick and wrong, top to bottom.
Which, of course, is why traffic is Aspen’s longest-running news story. Because everyone hates the congestion and desperately wants an improvement.Is there any way to report on the issue without being tedious or repetitive? Any way to shed light without also spewing written exhaust?We decided to stage a contest, a Great Race to get out of town.From the newsroom staff we selected five participants: A pedestrian, a bicyclist, a bus rider and two automobile drivers, one to take the conventional Main Street route, and one to sneak through the West End to Cemetery Lane via Power Plant Road. We told them all to make for the Aspen Business Center, and to time how long it takes to get there.They dashed out the front door of the Times building at 5 p.m. on Wednesday, July 5. We started the clock at the door of the building, since that’s the measure of an actual worker’s commute.
We don’t pretend that this exercise will yield any solutions, except for the frustrated commuter seeking a new route or a new mode of transit. Maybe we’ll convert some drivers into cyclists. Surely, given the race results, we’ll anger West End residents who may see a few more “cheaters” passing through their neighborhood (sorry, folks!).The real idea here was to have some fun with a nagging, frustrating civic problem. Hopefully our stories will make better reading than another damned environmental impact statement.Onward!