Aspen transit task force advises enhanced bus service, avoid more highway lanes

Staff report
This file photo shows traffic backed up before the S-curves on westbound Main Street in Aspen during the afternoon commute. A new transit task force issued a report Monday to increase transit mobility.
Aspen Times file photo |


What: Presentation of Upper Valley Mobility Report

When: Thursday at 4 p.m. at the EOTC meeting

Where: Aspen City Hall

Free and open to the public

The upper Roaring Fork Valley should use a carrot-and-stick approach to improve transit mobility between Aspen and Basalt, according to a new task force.

The carrots would include an enhanced public bus system. The sticks would include congestion-based pricing to drive into and park in Aspen.

The Aspen Institute Community Task Force on Transportation and Mobility advised in a 50-page report against adding traffic lanes to Highway 82 or, at this point, using the Marolt Open Space for a straight-shot solution into Aspen.

The 31-member task force is comprised of elected officials and residents from the upper valley as well as transportation experts. The Aspen Institute was a neutral coordinator for the effort. The task force members worked for 15 months before issuing a final report Monday. The Upper Valley Mobility Report is available at

“The task force was asked to work on a difficult problem and came up with pragmatic and creative solutions,” Bill Kane, task force co-chair, said in a prepared statement. “The group sought ways to move forward in both the near and long term that will reduce traffic congestion without waiting for one big element to solve the problem.”

The report said, “The individual components of this system are interdependent. Some measures specifically reduce traffic congestion; others increase mobility for the public. Some are capital and cost intensive, while others would contribute revenue, making the system more affordable.”

The group decided free-flowing traffic is not a reasonable expectation unless strong measures are adopted to reduce traffic and mitigate “induced demand.” In growing areas, induced demand results when adding traffic lanes or increasing mobility alternatives reduces auto congestion, but new traffic is generated and the roadways return to a congested level, according to an FAQ with the report.

The recommended steps are:

Enhance the Bus Rapid Transit system operated by the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority. Bus service would be streamlined and run more frequently. Electric or compressed natural-gas buses could be part of enhanced service between the Intercept Lot at Brush Creek Road and Highway 82 and Rubey Park bus station in Aspen.

Dynamic pricing would include an electronic toll on traffic entering Aspen. The price would vary depending on the levels of congestion and the purpose of the trip. Motorists could avoid a toll by parking at the Intercept Lot and catching a free bus or if they qualified for an exemption, such as carpooling.

Dynamic pricing for parking in Aspen would adjust parking prices based on congestion and parking availability.

High-occupancy vehicle lane enforcement would be boosted using new technologies rather than relying on cops. “Lack of enforcement has negated potential benefits,” the report said.

Ride-sharing would set up a system using an app on smartphones to share rides to and from transit stops in the Highway 82 corridor or for the full commute. Another app system could be established for ride hailing, using services such as Uber and Lyft.

Those recommendations must be integrated to be effective, the report said.

The task force advised steering clear of crossing the Marolt Open Space west of Aspen in the short term because of the risk of getting bogged down in politics.

“The option is politically fraught and can distract from implementing other solutions,” the report said. “But using Marolt for transit in the future was not ruled out given existing approvals.”

Light rail was viewed favorably, but the task force ranked it with high negativity because of the cost.

The report will be presented to the Elected Officials Transportation Committee, comprised of elected officials from Aspen, Snowmass Village and Pitkin County, at 4 p.m. Thursday in Aspen City Hall. That meeting is open to the public.