Voters need solutions, not excuses
April 24, 2003
Virtually every candidate for the Aspen City Council or mayor’s seat claims to be pro-transit, but few are willing to back the claim with real commitment. This, we believe, is a cop-out for a town desperately in need of innovative transportation solutions.
In this week’s edition, we asked each of the candidates about their position on the Entrance to Aspen, arguably the city’s most vexing and longest-running problem. The answers we received were valid and sincere across the board, but most seemed to reflect a peculiar determination to avoid committing to a solution.
Some candidates said simply they would rather accomplish something else during a two- or four-year term than slam their heads against the wall, trying to solve an intractable problem. Some incumbents are just plain burned out on the issue.
Others have drawn a political line in the sand across the edge of the Thomas-Marolt open space and refuse to consider any solution that would cross what has become sacred ground.
A few candidates – including Tony Hershey, Lisa Markalunas and Rachel Richards – are willing to consider or even advocate for a real solution to the Entrance to Aspen, but without the support of their cohorts the issue will remain where it has been for years – dead in the meadows west of town.
Aspen must do better.
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Transportation engineers generally agree that “fixing” the tight and jagged S-curves isn’t an option. The way to make transit efficient and effective, they say, is to give it a dedicated right of way where it can bypass traffic jams.
Most candidates say they would like to see fewer cars in town, but until drivers see a viable alternative to the single-occupant vehicle – namely a fast, efficient transit system that can compete with the automobile – they’re not going to leave their cars at home.
Two possible solutions to the longstanding bottleneck have been approved at the state and federal levels and are essentially ready to go: Two highway lanes and a light-rail alignment across the open space, or two highway lanes and two dedicated bus lanes along the same route.
But Aspen continues to find fault with every option presented, and the traffic jams continue.
A few years ago, Mayor John Bennett appeared close to a solution with the proposed parkway light-rail alignment across the open space, but even that proposal failed amid opposition from four-lane highway fans and cries about the urbanization of small-town Aspen.
And the traffic jams continue.
Our elected officials owe it to this town, their individual constituents and, yes, the non-Aspen voters on the bus, to find a solution that improves mass transit in and out of Aspen and fits with the feel and character of Aspen. We have all invested way too much time and money in mass transit to simply deny that this issue exists. And burnout is not a valid excuse.
Any “pro-transit” candidate should back up that label with commitment and, if elected, action. It’s not only the honest thing to do, it’s also the smartest thing for Aspen’s environment, Aspen’s economy and, yes, Aspen’s character.