Guest column: Let’s make getting around town easier

Randy Ready
Guest column

I appreciate this opportunity to clear up some misunderstanding in the community about Aspen’s pilot project to roll out on-demand electric cart service for short trips in and around the downtown core this summer. This test program has three very distinct goals: 1. To reduce congestion and traffic in the core. 2. To increase the availability of alternative mobility options and assess their feasibility. 3. To encourage bus ridership and use of outlying parking locations — especially the Rio Grande Parking Garage. This is not designed to compete with private businesses that offer rides anywhere to, from and around Aspen.

The Downtowner on-demand electric cart service is meant to run solely in and around the core. This means no runs to the Smuggler neighborhood, no trips to the airport, no rides to North Star Preserve or the music festival. The boundaries of the service area are from the Aspen Mountain side of town, Seventh Street to the west, Cooper Avenue Bridge to the east and Gillespie Avenue to the north. This is a service area of less than 2 square miles.

The electric cart service is meant to act as an incentive for those in town not to use their cars for errands, to help some bus riders complete their journey from bus stop to destination, and to encourage Aspen residents and commuters to take the bus into town knowing there are rides available if they have various meetings or downtown destinations to get to during the day or night. In addition, we hope it will be an incentive for more people who do drive to leave their cars parked or to park in the garage at a lower rate than the core, and use the on-demand app to get a ride into town in order to free up spaces downtown. This is akin to an on-demand public bus, not a personal taxi. Riders will be sharing the vehicle with other passengers along the way and won’t have single-passenger trips. The service will be free to users with tips accepted.

We expect these vehicles to work in concert with walking, biking, taxis, lodge vans and transit service to further reduce the need for many of our guests to rent a car or bring their vehicles. We’ve seen services such as these successfully launching in other cities around the country. Aspen’s effort is necessary to be innovative about the ways we move around. Ride sharing, WE-cycle, Car-to-Go, taxis and bus-rapid-transit are already in the mix. Our transportation future will likely include self-driving vehicles and other technology we can’t yet imagine. A forward thinking resort community should offer a healthy mix of mobility options for its residents and guests.

The test service is set to begin in early June and will run from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily, although we can change the hours based on feedback and efficiency needs. Please remember this is only a three-month pilot project, and we will evaluate its success in the fall. Let us hear from you after you’ve tried it.

City Council has set bold goals to reduce traffic and to explore viable alternatives to personal vehicles downtown, and we hope this test project will ultimately help make getting around town easier. Here’s to a great summer for everyone who lives, works or visits here — with less traffic. Join the Drive Less Challenge.

Randy Ready is Assistant City Manager for the City of Aspen.