Go ahead … choke on it! | AspenTimes.com

Go ahead … choke on it!

Andy Stone

OK, I’m angry and I need to get it off my chest. They say that carrying a grudge is bad for you, so here it is: I am still really angry at every single person who voted against running a train from Glenwood into downtown Aspen.And I can’t help wishing that every single one of you who voted against the train is spending time every day breathing toxic exhaust fumes while sitting in one of the traffic jams that are choking this town to death.Hmmm. Don’t know if I feel better yet. I guess I’ll go on.Aspen is choking on cars. That’s clear. And here’s something else that’s clear: There doesn’t seem to be any good solution.Do you really think that running the four-lane highway right into the heart of town is going to solve the problem?Don’t be ridiculous.Right now we have nasty traffic stretching the length of the valley every morning. It starts in Glenwood, where traffic backs up all the way through town and out onto I-70, and ends in a hideous traffic jam outside Aspen.Then, every afternoon, we have a hideous traffic jam right in the middle of Aspen, bleeding out into pretty nasty traffic most of the way downvalley – ending in another hideous traffic jam in Glenwood.Run a four-lane smack into the middle of Aspen and what’ll happen?Well, the hideous morning traffic jam will just move into town, as all those cars flood into Aspen, hit the traffic lights, jam on their brakes and start looking for somewhere to park.You can’t fill a Coke bottle with a fire hose.And in the afternoon, the traffic jam will move out to the edge of town, as commuter traffic gets tangled up with skier traffic and school traffic and airport traffic.And if traffic does move a little faster, you know what happens next: More people drive … until traffic gets just as bad as it was before.Meanwhile, we’re still wrestling with parking.And as the City Council made clear this week, we have no idea how to handle the parking problem.In its semi-infinite wisdom, the council decided to expand paid parking to include the West End and east end areas where local workers now park – scurrying back and forth every two hours to move their cars.What will this accomplish?Well, it’ll bring in some more parking revenue for the city.And it will make local workers’ lives even more miserable – which apparently counts as a civic goal these days.Will it help solve the city’s problems with too many cars?In a word: no. (In two words: hell, no!)The valley’s bus system isn’t really able to handle many more riders. So we’ll just be making it more unpleasant to drive, without offering a reasonable alternative.It’s the stick without the carrot. (Or perhaps the new Aspen version of carrot-and-stick: We’ll just take this carrot and stick it in your eye.)And don’t bother suggesting that we need a massive garage under Wagner Park. First of all, that would be rape, plain and simple. And can you imagine the traffic jams when all those cars turn off Main Street and start fighting their way through the residential streets to the park?No. The problem is the cars. Too damn many cars.Period.The only way to solve it is to get people out of their cars.And the only way to do that is with a clean, safe, fast, easily expandable public transit system.Like a train.And we could have had one, except that some narrow-minded, short-sighted, dishonest people spread a lot of lies, threw sand in the voters’ eyes and declared that a four-lane highway right into the heart of town was the American solution, the only solution.And people fell for it. And voted down the train.And what are we going to do now?We’re going to choke on it.And I only hope that the people who voted against the train choke first.OK. I feel better now.Thanks.Andy Stone is former editor of The Aspen Times. His e-mail address is andy@aspentimes.com

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