Add your voice to the Chorus?
July 13, 2005
The Last Half-Mile Chorus may be growing. RFTA has added its voice, calling for a dedicated bus lane to escape the afternoon gridlock. So have the fire and emergency professionals, who are warning of tragedy because emergency vehicles can’t get through the pinch. Has this been enough to put a serious review of solutions to Aspen’s daily Global Warming Parade back on the agenda of local elected officials? No, not yet. But keep those engines idling … .And besides, this is probably a case where the citizens are going to have to lead their elected officials to a solution. And in order for the citizens who have the levers of power in their hands – the voting residents of the city of Aspen – to become better informed about their transit options, I have a suggestion: take a lap.Take a lap on your bike or take a lap on foot from the Castle Creek car bridge out and back around the roundabout on the bike paths that now exist out there. It won’t take more than 30 minutes. The main thing you will take away from your excursion is a sense of scale.Until the voters of Aspen have a realistic sense of the scale of their potential options regarding a dedicated mass transit way between Main Street and Buttermilk, it will be far too easy for opponents to transit, or opponents to change, to blow things out of proportion. First, I recommend going out to the Castle Creek car bridge from the Aspen end of the bridge and standing in the middle of this gritty two-lane bridge. One of things you will recognize immediately, especially if you go during either the morning or afternoon rush hour, is that the Castle Creek bridge is a hostile place to stand. The constant flow of cars and their noxious tailpipes will make you ill, but it will also help you understand the urgency of the problem.Next, go to the end of bridge and walk down and underneath the bridge on the bike path. You’ll see that this is a big old span set on four enormous concrete pillars. And one of the pillars was placed directly in the middle of Castle Creek. If we ever hope to install any sort of dedicated mass transit way across Castle Creek to Main Street in the future, it is going to have to be a span of this magnitude, even if it is just two lanes wide, as it should be. But there is surely a way to make it a more gracious span and I bet we can even keep the pillars out of the creek this time.Onward now to another bridge. Go up the bike path and stop in the middle of the new pedestrian bridge built over Castle Creek Road. Once there, look out at the landscaping that has been done around the roundabout, on the bridge abutments, and on the RFTA bus stop on the other side of Maroon Creek Road. The improvements have been tastefully done with stone and wood and are nicely landscaped. Now, linger on the bridge and watch the traffic come and go through the roundabout and up and down Castle and Maroon Creek roads. Give it 10 minutes and watch how many RFTA buses come through compared to how many cars come through … . Not many at all by comparison. Then, turn and look back over the Thomas and Marolt properties and see if you can visualize a two-lane busway, nicely landscaped with tall grass growing right to its edges, radiating out from the roundabout and heading across The Sacred Meadow. Watch how infrequently the buses would actually use their dedicated transit way and imagine how quickly they might proceed on their own path compared to the current stalled line of traffic. Try and visualize the relative scale and impact of such a scenario compared to all the hysterical renderings you’ve seen to date of the various options presented to Aspen voters. And then ask yourself: If the same landscape architects who designed the new pedestrian bridges and the roundabout were to design a two-lane bus lane between the roundabout and Main Street, would it be of a scale acceptable to you? If so, is it time to add your voice to the Chorus? Brent Gardner-Smith is a former Aspen Times reporter. His column will run periodically in The Aspen Times.
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