Tipsy Taxi eyes ‘rejuvenation’ at Thursday fundraiser in Aspen
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What: Save Tipsy Taxi: Party for a Purpose
When: 7 p.m. to 2 a.m., Thursday, March 23
Where: Rickhouse Social, 515 E. Hopkins Ave.
Cost: $20 suggested donation
When Ellen Anderson launched Tipsy Taxi 34 years ago, her intention was not to sober people up but to reduce the sobering statistics connected to alcohol-related driving in the Aspen area.
Did it work? Anderson believes it has, and she points to a 2000 study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and Department of Transportation that noted “nighttime, injury and fatal crashes all declined after the implementation of Tipsy Taxi.”
Yet Anderson also believes the free cab service for people too inebriated to drive isn’t in the local public conscious like it used to be.
“When we first started in the ’80s and ’90s, we were giving out 300 to 500 (taxi-ride vouchers) a year,” said Anderson, who was inspired to launch the program after responding to a drunken-driving crash on Highway 82 that left multiple people dead. She was a Pitkin County sheriff’s deputy at the time. “Now it’s down to about 200 a year.”
Tipsy Taxi operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week, every day of the year.
“The philosophy behind Tipsy Taxi is to have it available all the time and make sure that the people who truly need it have it available,” Anderson said.
You could be at a bar finding yourself broke, friendless and too drunk to drive. Tipsy Taxi supplies Aspen’s bartenders with $75 cab vouchers to provide those very people a means to get home.
Or you could be at a friend’s place at 4 in the morning or wandering the streets when the bars are closed. In those instances, people can contact police at 970-920-5300 or 970-920-5400. They, too, have vouchers for those unqualified to get behind the wheel.
The vouchers are given to licensed-PUC cab services that are reimbursed for their services by Tipsy Taxi.
Anderson attributes the decline in Tipsy Taxi rides over the years to an improved public transportation system. Anderson, who is now retired but still manages Tipsy Taxi, also said the program isn’t marketed or advertised as much as it once was, and people who are new to town might not be aware of it. And the popular Bartenders’ Ball, an end-of-ski-season black-tie affair that raised funds for Tipsy Taxi and other nonprofits, went belly up after its 2002 edition.
Tipsy Taxi is not supported by tax dollars and relies on contributions. Its account is managed by the Pitkin County Treasurer’s Office.
Tonight, Anderson said she hopes Tipsy Taxi will be “rejuvenated” by a fundraiser set at Rickhouse Social, which is located below Aspen Kitchen at 515 E. Hopkins Ave.
The event starts at 7 p.m. and runs to 2 a.m. Twenty-dollar donations are suggested to attend the event that will include light fare, a guest DJ, a silent auction and a dance party.
Tipsy Taxi has about $80,000 in its coffers, but those funds can only stretch so far, Anderson said. The existing cash on hand, she said, would last anywhere from two to three more years. More money is needed to secure its long-term viability, she said.
“I don’t want to sound alarmist,” she said, “but we can’t coast anymore.”
According to the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office, deputies made 41 DUI arrests in 2012, 58 in 2013, 57 in 2014, 45 in 2015, and 59 in 2016.
The Aspen Police Department recorded 66 drunken-driving arrests in 2012, 60 in 2013, 59 in 2014, 44 in 2015, and 45 in 2016.
The cost of a DUI conviction in Colorado — after paying court costs, attorney’s fees, fines and increased insurance, among such other expenses as buying an interlock device — now stands at $13,000, Anderson said.
“One of the tenets of Tipsy Taxi is we are all on the same side,” she said. “Officers would very much like to avoid busting somebody.”
However, the greater goal of Tipsy Taxi, Anderson said, is to prevent unnecessary tragedies.
“Every drunken-driving crash is avoidable,” she said. “And it doesn’t matter if you came to Aspen on a Gulfstream or you came on a Subaru. If you are on the highway, you can get killed by a drunk driver.”
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