Trolleys are not toys | AspenTimes.com

Trolleys are not toys

I am responding to a recent editorial by Sheldon Fingerman in which he dismissed the 1,000 valley residents who signed a petition to keep Aspen’s trolleys as a bunch of two-year-olds responding because they are about to lose a discarded toy. Really!

Actually, the City Council, realizing that the trolleys are deteriorating, decided they should be preserved, even if it meant giving them away. They asked the Aspen Street Railway Company (ASRC), a nonprofit organization which originally donated the trolleys to Aspen, to demonstrate there was sufficient public interest in keeping the trolleys.

The ASRC responded to the council by submitting a petition with 1,000 signatures supporting the trolleys. As a result, the council and ASRC are working on November ballot wording to present the choice to the voters. It will contain numerous safeguards guaranteeing that community concerns are addressed before implementation can proceed.

Sheldon also stated the trolleys, after numerous (negative) votes, have surfaced again. Having a trolley system has never been voted on.

On several occasions the ASRC and the city worked closely to develop an Aspen trolley plan that was suitable and affordable. The Galena Street corridor was selected as the primary route. Official trolley support under previous councils waned behind other priorities and the changing of council membership. For the first time the issue will be placed before the voters.

The ASRC has offered to finance and implement a $4 million trolley shuttle system using battery-powered (no wires), restored, historic Aspen trolleys. When completed, the entire system will be given to the citizens of Aspen to be operated by the city or an agency of their choosing. Operation costs will be comparable to the Galena Street Shuttle.

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Trolleys are not toys, they are enjoyable transportation and economic engines which will sustain and enhance our community. Since a trolley for Aspen was originally considered, 23 cities around the nation adopted historic trolleys to stimulate local economies, to attract tourism and to facilitate transport between merchants and parking areas.

These cities have benefited, particularly because the systems were developed in conjunction with an active community restoration/preservation plan and cooperation of the business community. The ASRC has prepared such a plan, which is currently being presented to the community and will be refined to meet city planning objectives.

The full plan can be viewed on the Aspen trolley Web site, at http://www.aspentrolley.com. Information on the site includes a proposed route, costs, business benefits, history, pictures, report downloads, and links to all cities with current and planned trolley systems.

Trolleys will not solve Aspen’s current problems by themselves. But integrated into community plans, trolleys have a proven record of positive results.

A generous community supporter and trolley petition signer manages a foundation which has given a $20,000 grant to the city of Aspen and the ASRC, which is being used to restore the interior and exterior of an Aspen trolley for benefit of the public.

The restoration has been started and the trolley will be on display by the end of August. Thanks to this generous donation, we can all get a feel for a trolley as it appears and feels in Aspen.

Kip Wheeler

Aspen