Just exhuming dead transit
December 20, 2005
Maybe I missed something, but I thought we had already reached consensus on the S-curve/straight-shot question when, barely three years ago, with an impressive 61 percent voter turnout, the city voted for the S-curves (56 percent) and, to everyone’s surprise, the county also approved the S-curves (51 percent).Now a move is afoot for the city, with the help of the Aspen Institute, other local governments, a large committee comprising committed citizens throughout the valley and, of course, the ubiquitous facilitator, to revisit the issue and come up with a solution that will put an end the divisive polarity. Instead of accepting the will of the people, it’s being stirred up again, and all I can say is: Good luck.The first time we attempted this kind of transit process, a citizens committee came up with a wonderful plan for autobahn buses, kind of a monorail system operating alongside the highway, connecting Aspen to Highlands, Snowmass and I don’t remember how far downvalley, but it sounded sweet enough that we voted for a transit tax to look into it further, having been promised that we would be able to vote on final approval of the system after the kinks had been ironed out. Meanwhile the tax would be held in escrow, collecting interest, so we’d have a deep pocket when the time came.Turned out, the cute autobahns were so expensive the most we could afford was a right of way for buses – not to buy the buses or to build a busway, but just to buy the right of way. We turned that down and now the escrow has trickled away down various ratholes.The next facilitated committee was to investigate light rail coming down Main Street: three years of digging and the execution of all the venerable trees. Again: too expensive, too disruptive, passengers would have to change trains at the airport, so this idea, too, got thumped.In both cases, the citizens’ committees didn’t want premature press coverage before their plans were fully “cooked,” and then, when their conclusions generated a public outcry, claimed to have worked thousands and thousands of hours and where were WE during the process?Here we go again, so consider yourself warned. I don’t know why the city would bring this upon itself, except that a huge facilitated city/county/Snowmass Village/Institute/multicitizen confab will of itself cause sufficient infighting to take the heat off the council (and, parenthetically, will ensure the jobs of the recently enlarged Community Development department) for years to come.As for consensus, as Janet Urquhart wrote in her report about the initial work session, “The council’s conversation was nearly as divisive as the community debate over the issue has been for three decades” (The Aspen Times, Dec. 6). Onward. Su Lum is a longtime local who thinks a building moratorium during the consensus process would be nice. Her column appears every Wednesday in The Aspen Times.
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