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Consider it your meditation time

Andy Stone

So, Aspen doesn’t like traffic jams.That’s really sad. Really. All those people, stuck in traffic jams. Going to work in the morning. Going home at night. Trying to ski. Trying to get home after skiing. Just trying to live their lives and have a little fun here in the Wild West, in the Land of the Free.Anywhere. Anytime. Aspen’s a hellhole of stalled traffic.It just plain sucks.I read about it in news stories. I read about it in letters to the editor. I hear about it at the breakfast table.Everybody’s in a rage. It’s ruining our town!Why won’t someone do something about it?Why?Actually, everyone seems to be forgetting that we already have done something about it.We have voted in favor of it. Twice.In all our wisdom, we the voters have stood tall, exercised our sacred democratic rights and voted in favor of endless traffic jams.Twice.Which is why it’s so pathetic that everyone’s upset. That’s democracy. You get what you vote for. You voted for traffic jams – did I mention that you did it twice? – and that’s what you got.What’s your problem?In case you haven’t been paying attention (and, in fact, I suspect that a lot of you haven’t), the first time was back a few years ago, when everyone got together and voted against building a rail system for the valley.We had federal government money. We had local money. We had companies willing to build the system and run the system. We had it all.We fought over it for many months and we decided, no, we don’t want a train. We want to drive our cars.Now, just in passing, I should note that no one said you couldn’t drive your car if we built a train. No police would have been stationed at the city limits to prevent cars from entering. There just would have been a train for the people who wanted one.But, nope. We didn’t want it.So that was the first time we voted for traffic jams.The next time around was more recently.It was the “Straight Shot” election.The idea was that squeezing the highway down from four lanes to two lanes and then running it through a couple of right-angle turns on the way into town was slowing traffic down. That, by the way, is an analysis and conclusion about as difficult as figuring that sticking a couple of pencils into your eyes will hurt.We had the state money. We had plans that would mostly prevent our losing much of that oh-so-valuable roadside open space. (Because, gee, what’s nicer than some wild, unspoiled land – a slice of heaven – next to a four-lane highway?)So, anyway, we fought over that one for a few months.And then we decided, no, we didn’t want a road that could handle the traffic coming into town.Just to recap: We voted against a plan to take traffic off the highway. Then we voted against a plan to build a highway to handle all the traffic.People who loved their cars more than anything in the world rejected the train – even though it meant that they and their cars would be stuck in traffic for … approximately, well, forever.And people who loved open space voted against the highway – even though it meant their precious open space would be blanketed in exhaust fumes.In order to preserve our God-given right to be free and mobile people in our own personal automobiles, we voted to be stuck in a huge, honking permanent traffic jam.In order to preserve our unique, quaint small mountain town, we voted to fill that town with clouds of exhaust, a river of steel and hordes of angry people who hate their lives and their neighbors.Golly gee, we’ve just done really well, haven’t we?So, do I have an answer to the problem?Hell no. I don’t have an answer.Why would I? Why should I? We don’t want an answer.We want our traffic jams.Andy Stone is former editor of The Aspen Times. His e-mail address is andy@aspentimes.com.


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