I vote … um, hell if I know | AspenTimes.com

I vote … um, hell if I know

Andy StoneAspen, CO Colorado

Iwish I knew how I felt about this new wild expansion of paid parking. I mean, OK, I do know how I feel: I think it sucks. But I think it sucks just because it annoys me personally.I do a lot of racing around the region for my job these days, so I tend to zip into town, dash into The Aspen Times office, annoy the editors, reporters and publisher, and then hurry off again to Snowmass or Rifle or even (shudder) Vail.So I need my car; I need it often, and sometimes I need it in a hurry. I need to use it alone. (Sounds like an addiction, doesn’t it? Or pornography, now that I think about it.)That means that I really rely on the two-hour free parking. So extending paid parking to most of the city really chaps my tender hide.But that’s me, personally, speaking as one very selfish individual.On the other hand, as an even semiconcerned member of the community, I really ought to be thinking about whether paid parking is good for Aspen – not whether it’s a pain in the butt for me.And that’s where I come down solidly, four-square in the “hell if I know” category.Let’s see … the traffic jams at the Entrance to Aspen are perhaps the city’s biggest problem right now (aside from housing, runaway development, global warming, the death of the community’s soul, the end of civilization as we know it and all the other little annoying problems).And expanding paid parking to the edge of the known universe should, theoretically, persuade some people to leave their cars at home and ride the bus. (And never mind the fact that we can’t afford to expand the bus system to handle the extra passengers – don’t confuse the issue with facts, please.)So expanded paid parking should reduce traffic into town by some measurable amount. Some very, very tiny measurable amount, since a large proportion of the traffic consists of construction vehicles, dump trucks, semi-trucks and pick-ups full of construction workers and their tools. Still, any reduction in traffic is good.Plus, those who refuse to be persuaded to leave their cars at home will have to pay for the privilege of destroying the community – and it is good that sinners suffer.This is one of the basic principals of America’s renowned Judeo-Christian ethic: Sinners shall suffer. (And just stop whining all you heathen, pleasure-loving pagans; You’re having too much fun anyway. You don’t get to complain about a little suffering. You deserve it. So there. Jehovah is a vengeful god.)Of course, all these arguments were raised, to some extent, years ago when paid parking was first forced upon a grateful Aspen. There were some very forceful protests, including a “honk-in” in which opponents of paid parking drove past City Hall and leaned on their horns for what seemed like several hours.We were told that paid parking would destroy Aspen. It would ruin the downtown. It would drive workers away.Of course, we were also told, by the plan’s supporters, that paid parking would reduce traffic jams.So … how well did either of those arguments prove out? Has town been destroyed? Have traffic jams been eliminated?Has paid parking succeeded or failed? And if it’s succeeded, will expanding it increase the success or destroy it? Or, if it’s failed, will expanding it cure the failure or make it worse?Once again, you can put me down as a solid “hell if I know.”Maybe I’ll stick with a suggestion I offered all those years ago when paid parking was first considered.The city should back off the whole deal and explain that “paid parking” is just a typo. What they really meant to establish was “plaid parking” – a plan to paint lovely plaid patterns on the downtown curbs as a city beautification project – but the “l” got left out of “plaid.”Not a crisis, just a typo.Yeah, that’s how I feel about paid parking.Andy Stone is former editor of The Aspen Times. His e-mail address is andy@aspentimes.com