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We need light rail

Dear Editor: Your recent article: RFTA Buses maxed out (Feb. 12) prompts me to comment that had we not torn up the tracks of the Denver & Rio Grande Western Railroad for a bike path, we might still have had an opportunity to install light rail as an efficient and cost effective means of providing safe, reliable transit service for the valley. Auto and truck traffic continues to increase, but flows smoothly during good weather conditions. It has been my observation that when the weather turns bad, traffic slows to a crawl. Thats when the auto lovers wish they were on the bus. Bus ridership increases dramatically in bad weather and just as suddenly drops off when the roads become dry. We love the convenience and comfort of our cars and will never take a bus so long as gasoline is available. Winter driving conditions, with its dangerous and icy roads and the magnesium chloride that causes corrosion and dark roads, will deter some drivers from using their cars. These same conditions that spell trouble for the RFTA bus system and its drivers will also serve as an auto disincentive and force ridership up. Take away the bad weather road problems and bus ridership drops off. This is a Catch-22 for RFTA. Ten years ago, we had an opportunity to fund and build a light rail system. We chose not to build light rail, but rather use buses. How ironic! RFTA has used the slogan Think rail! Use Buses. It has been argued: We cannot afford a light rail system. But had RFTA aggressively sought federal funding to help build a light-rail system for the valley, they would not be facing todays problems of crowded buses with the lack of drivers. I argue that we can afford to build light rail, given the alternative social and environmental costs to the valley, that will occur with continuing highway and bus expansion. In large cities, the convenience and reliability of light rail has proven that rail transit is a better option than the private car and far superior to BRT. The outside world has discovered the merits of light rail its reliable and on time even under the most adverse weather conditions. Snow and ice seldom stops rail. Bicyclists can take their bikes aboard, making for an easy doorto- door commute. How many bicyclists are commuting from Carbondale to Aspen on the Rio Grande Trail? Parochial considerations and ignorance eliminated any chance for a viable economic light rail plan. In the meantime, Open Space and Trails spends our tax money to pave over the tracks and increase the cost of any rail restoration effort. So please, during these treacherous winter conditions, drive slow or take the bus and leave the road hazards and stress to RFTA. Jim Markalunas Aspen


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