Letter: When ‘free’ isn’t free

Free taxis? Really? By my calculations, the proposed “free,” on-demand taxis are costing the city and the taxpayers $89,250 for the three-month pilot period. The Aspen Times article on April 13 (“Take a free ride”) states that these taxis usually have advertising on the outside of the vehicles in other resort communities but not here in Aspen. So, after the trial period, who is paying for the “free” taxis? Certainly gratuities will not cover the cost of the vehicles and driver wages! I assume the appeal to our City Council is the electronic vehicles that are better for our environment. If the goal is to decrease traffic and congestion in the central core, we could encourage walking and local bus use in town. Those are free and already available. Actually what this service does is add five more cars to the roads in the core area (and that’s just the starting point for the fleet). Why is this service not extended to outlying areas (Intercept Lot, Buttermilk parking) where parking is available and offer the taxis to offset cars coming into town? It seems to me we are just creating another tourist attraction versus a service that actually impacts the commuter- and visitor-traffic problem. And why in the world would we not as a community seek out local businesses (that are already established) to provide this service? Perhaps our local businesses would like to buy some electric vehicles and throw their hats in the ring for the opportunity to provide this service. Let the supply-and-demand rules of free-market business drive the taxi economy. I for one would pay a fee for a “green” taxi and support a local business, and that would be my choice! I certainly don’t support the idea of tax dollars and parking fees being used to subsidize a program that easily could occur as a free-market business, especially when we already have a terrific bus system already in place.

Full disclosure: I have no stake in any local taxi or transportation businesses. I am just a concerned local resident! City Council, please revisit this contract and think it through a bit more before you let the ink dry!

Amy Behrhorst

Woody Creek