Entrance solution a carrot, not a stick
I want to thank Scott Condon for his article in Saturday’s paper recounting the history of the endless debate over the entrance to town (“Entrance: How it unfolded in 1970”, Feb. 3). It was the clearest, cleanest, no-spin rendition of history I have ever heard. I must admit the 30 years and 26 public meetings have had their intended effect on me. I finally got worn down and gave up on ever having any impact on the event, and I have lost faith anything would ever change unless it finally reflected council’s desired outcome: “the train.”I would, however, like to add my own observations on the past debate, which perhaps may stimulate some positive movement and explain how this incredible situation could have persisted over so many years in the face of such a severe, constantly escalating problem.Over the years, council has hired numerous transportation consultants and authorized many, many, many, many studies of the problem. That is a fact. But the secret unknown to most of you is these consultants and studies were never, at any time, asked to solve, or allowed to address, the traffic flow or the amount of available parking! I hope you are all astonished! I repeat, they were never at any time asked to figure out what would most improve the traffic flow or how to increase the availability of convenient, efficient parking.To amplify Scott’s explanation, beginning with Dwight Shellman’s very clearly stated position back in the ‘ 60s, our government has continued to take the position the automobile, not the congestion, was the enemy! They have always believed it must be eliminated from our environment the way we did cigarettes. The automobile’s presence was seen as an environmentally polluting, politically incorrect, cultural phenomenon threatened everything held precious about our small town.Hence, during John Bennett’s terms as mayor the council, once again, directed their repetitious consultants to design a transportation solution system that would return the number of automobiles in town back to 1978 levels. The open use of this paradigm for transportation solutions, naturally and necessarily, resulted in solutions were designed to make it as inconvenient to use an automobile as humanly possible. Council eliminated as many parking spaces in town as they possibly could and turned down offers for public use of unused available, subterranean, hotel parking because their goal was to force as many people as they could out of their cars, in order to sell “the train.”Many of us never took the train seriously as a viable, immediate solution to our congested traffic pattern and lack of parking. Our government, however, went so far as to hire a lobbyist, at enormous tax-payer expense, to go to Washington, D.C. to get federal funds for our train. The train was defeated at the ballot box – when the people were finally asked, despite the millions of dollars and endless hours of staff time our government spent trying to drive this solution down our throats.The sad truth is, had they spent even the smallest amount of energy in seeking to improve our existing traffic flow and parking problems, I believe we would have all voted to retain a train right of way as an intelligent, thoughtful, long term, big picture solution to the problem. But, oh no, it was always cars or trains. No carrot, just the ever consistent stick to drive people out of their cars onto mass transit.Our own Rocky Mountain Institute, I am very proud to say, has contributed enormously to the idea the automobile can have a radically less polluting future and an acceptable environmental impact. Please take notice of how RMI has taken a holistic and realistic approach to the future of transportation in America. Meanwhile, our own government is still trying to reduce traffic back to 1978 levels, choke down traffic flow and eliminate as many parking spaces as possible. A good, recent example was council’s recent “breathtakingly brilliant” elimination of dozens of desperately needed parking spaces on Main Street so a RFTA bus can be 150 yards further down the road when it hits the inevitable “Aspen choke station,” where two lanes get funneled back into one.As long as our local government’s basic paradigm of eliminating the car holds precedence over intelligent parking and traffic flow design, I want to submit that another 30 years and 26 more public meetings will have little impact on our problem. Traffic engineers know exactly how to best improve our flow of traffic and what is needed in the way of parking to improve our overall quality of life for both locals and tourists. The city council does not, never did and never will acknowledge any of this, because they don’t view automobile congestion and lack of parking as a problem. It’s something they have worked on relentlessly for 40 plus years to intentionally create.I guess they should be proud of themselves. They have, you must admit, done a good job at achieving part of their goal. They have, indeed, made it more uncomfortable for you to use your car in Aspen. Sadly, they still think, despite the last 40-plus years of evidence to the contrary, that it will eventually help to force all of us out of our cars and onto “the train.”Terry Hale is a resident of Aspen. Editor’s note: Soapbox runs weekly on the Sunday opinion page. This spot is a forum for valley residents to comment on local topics. If you’d like to contribute, contact Naomi Havlen at The Aspen Times at 925-3414, extension 17624 or e-mail email@example.com.
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Dear Lori and Jeff,