OK. Enough. Shut it down! | AspenTimes.com

OK. Enough. Shut it down!

Another series of town meetings on the Entrance to Aspen!Wow. Just what we needed: more sound and fury, signifying nothing (if I may steal from Mr. Macbeth).Still, at the risk of adding to the confusion, I have to point something out:Almost everyone seems to be focused on the wrong problem.The problem is not what to do about the traffic jam every morning and afternoon.The problem – the real problem – is how to preserve Aspen as a community worth living in, working in and visiting.Sure, the traffic jam is part of the problem (although primarily for workers and visitors). But if all we focus on is getting rid of the traffic jam, we could easily wind up making the town a lot worse (for everyone).As many have pointed out, if we get rid of the bottleneck and keep traffic moving freely right into Aspen, we’ll very probably just wind up with a new traffic jam. On Main Street. Right in the middle of town. After all, those cars still have to slow down to 25 mph. They still have to stop for the traffic lights (and for pedestrians in the crosswalks). Then they have to turn off into side streets to look for parking.There’ll be lots of speeding tickets, a few flattened pedestrians … and we’ll still have one honking big traffic jam. And once we take the kinks out of the highway, we can absolutely expect a demand that we take the kinks out of our parking system. And here comes the mob, screaming for a parking garage under Wagner Park. That idea is just plain irresistible to some people. So, dig we must. Dig we will. And that will create a whole new traffic jam when everyone threads their way through town to get a parking spot in that nifty hole in the ground. (Gee, imagine what we’ll have to bulldoze to fix that traffic back-up.)Will all those problems emerge immediately? Some will; some won’t. It might take, oh, maybe even a decade for everything to fall apart again.For sure, once we “solve” the traffic jam, there will be an immediate jump in traffic. Not a huge one, but certainly there are people who now take the bus or carpool, and who will gladly start driving once things ease up.But in the long run, no matter what, traffic into Aspen will just keep creeping up, year after year. That’s what’s been happening for decades, no matter what we do. And those increases will bring back the traffic jam. Even on a new, improved Highway to Hell … I mean, Entrance to Aspen. But this time it’ll be even worse.Unless we actually do something. Not something to “solve the traffic jam,” but something to save Aspen.So – and here’s where I know I’m really just stirring up trouble – suppose we just simply flat ban all nonresident traffic into town. If you don’t live in Aspen, you don’t drive in Aspen. Period.Yeah, I know. That’s been suggested and rejected many times in the past. But maybe as things get worse we might be willing to take some real action.Something like this:No nonresident traffic past the roundabout. Massive parking lots at the airport, with constant train service into town.High-frequency, free (electric?) public transit throughout the downtown.Taxis, limos and hotel vans are allowed into town. Rental cars? No way.Construction traffic inbound only before 7 a.m. – and even then, only with damned expensive permits. Otherwise only with prohibitively expensive permits. Something similar for deliveries.That’s just a quick sketch. I’m sure it’s full of holes, but you get the idea.The point, as I said, isn’t to solve the traffic jam. The point is to save Aspen.Who said it would be easy?Andy Stone is former editor of The Aspen Times. His e-mail address is andy@aspentimes.com.

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