Traffic ‘unjam’ ideas run the gamut
July 19, 2005
Buses on Hallam and frequent-rider points were among the many ideas that got an airing Tuesday as the City Council brainstormed ways to alleviate Aspen’s traffic jams.In the short term, council members want to know if an afternoon, outbound buses-only lane can be created before summer is over.In the long term, several members said they still hold out hope for light rail into Aspen. The ever-controversial realignment of Highway 82 at the western edge of town – the so-called straight shot – also surfaced during Day 2 of the council’s retreat at the Aspen Alps.The public should also play a role in the solution to the town’s traffic woes, members agreed, calling for a campaign urging local drivers to cut down on around-town trips during the summer crunch, among other things.”We should ask the community for help. They’re the only ones who can help us on this one,” Councilwoman Rachel Richards said.”I agree 100 percent that involving the public and ourselves – are you part of the problem or part of the solution – is essential,” said Mayor Helen Klanderud, who drove to yesterday’s meeting, as did three other council members. Councilman Jack Johnson said he walked.
The public should also be part of the brainstorming, added City Manager Steve Barwick, urging the council to bring the community’s creative ideas to the table.”We’ve got to re-engage the community, especially on transportation,” he said.Council members agreed, but they had plenty of ideas on their own.”We’ve already done all the easy things,” Richards noted. “There are no more low-hanging fruit out there on this issue.”A host of old and new ideas, however, weren’t out of the council’s reach. They included: Frequent-rider points for bus riders, with off-season, daily parking passes or – in cooperation with the Aspen Skiing Co. – a ski pass or lift tickets as a reward. Hefty permit fees for all but one construction vehicle at a job site – $1,000 per day, per vehicle was suggested.
An outbound bus lane on Hallam Street, with a police officer posted at Seventh Street to facilitate their merger into the S-curves. An outbound bus lane down the center of Main Street, eliminating left turns off Main during the afternoon rush, with a police officer to ease their maneuver onto Seventh Street. (This option wouldn’t require re-striping the highway, as would a bus lane down the north side of Main Street.) Working with school officials to limit student driving to the campus.”There are an awful lot of privileged kids in this town and privileged parents. That would be about as popular as running buses through the West End,” predicted Councilman J.E. DeVilbiss regarding the latter suggestion. He supported the idea, though.An intercept lot and shuttle buses running between Buttermilk and town also received council endorsement. Richards advocated light rail from Buttermilk or the airport as Aspen’s ultimate transit solution. It could cross over the Marolt Open Space while traffic remains in the S-curves – the bottleneck on Highway 82 at the West End.”I cannot support the concept of four lanes into Aspen,” said Richards, a former supporter of two bus lanes and two vehicle lanes across the Marolt – the straight shot alignment.
Councilman Torre, on the other hand, identified himself as an S-curver who’s willing to discuss the straight shot if the design can be modified to fit with Aspen’s character and as long as it contains a dedicated transit component.”I’m not opposed to the straight shot if it can be done in a manner that is suitable to this community,” he said.”We have to have the courage, whatever our position is, to examine it for the benefit of the community,” Klanderud agreed. “I don’t want to see a four-lane, but I’ll discuss it.”Torre said he also wants the city to pursue the necessary approvals to use the new Maroon Creek bridge, which will be under construction soon, for four lanes of traffic, including dedicated bus lanes. The span will be wide enough, but voter approval is lacking.”I think that’s crap,” he said. “I think if we’re building it to the width of four lanes, we should be using it for mass transit.”The council directed city staffers to return with proposals – especially one to create an outbound, buses-only lane on Main Street – as quickly as possible.Janet Urquhart’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org