Letter: Expanded Rubey Park would be an Aspen blight
October 19, 2013
Expanded Rubey Park would be an Aspen blight
Editor's note: The following letter was originally sent to members of Aspen City Council.
In the paper recently, I saw an artist's representation of the proposed, expanded bus terminal at Rubey Park. Apparently it is being seriously considered and I am very concerned. We should all be concerned. I was amazed that $500,000 has already been spent on ideas for a larger bus terminal at Rubey Park and up to $5 million will be spent on the project. They propose 25 or more buses lined up on both sides of Durant for two blocks, blocking the ambience of the skating rink and blocking views of Wagner Park activities.
Walking those two blocks of Durant, all you will see is buses. Also, several parking spaces will be lost around Rubey Park.
So we would lose even more parking, along with the permanent loss of all the spaces around the huge new art museum and all the spaces permanently lost to the bicycle program, as well as the spaces lost to downtown construction zones (even our Aspen Saturday Market venue). There are many people frustrated at the lack of parking. We are losing downvalley customers for whom it is not convenient to take the bus to Aspen when they want to come to an event or to go out to dinner. More often than not, they simply don't come. We are not being hospitable to visitors. It's shocking how Aspen is scoring lower and lower in polls every year. We are below Telluride, Vail, Jackson Hole and Snowmass, and we don't usually even finish in the top 10 of U.S. ski resorts in most of the polls.
Putting a bigger bus terminal and 25 buses in the heart of Aspen's tourist area is not going to enhance our tourists' experience in Aspen.
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I am not a community planner nor a mass transportation expert. I have been an Aspen resident for most of my life and I just have to ask: Isn't there a better way to deal with the buses in Aspen?
Don't we already have a large RFTA facility near the Aspen Business Center with offices and parking? Then, why do we have to have all the buses stacked up in downtown, at the base of Aspen Mountain? Isn't there somewhere else to put them?
Is it possible for a terminal/transit center to be at Rio Grande Park by the existing parking garage and chamber office? There is quite a bit of space there, including the Rio Grande Building (the former youth center). Can't that area be reconfigured?
The big downvalley buses can arrive there, and smaller buses, like the Galena shuttle, can take people to downtown and Rubey Park and other neighborhoods in Aspen. To me this seems logical. Why not have Aspen's transportation center and parking garage and the chamber's visitor center all in the same area?
We are rapidly destroying our downtown ambience with so many cranes and all the construction. We are losing our small-town charm with all the buildings that have been torn down(and will be torn down) to be rebuilt as three story contemporary buildings. We already have huge buses chugging their way through our narrow downtown streets and this will get even worse, if we don't have a good plan for the future. Our plan shouldn't have 25 to 29 buses parked in the heart of Aspen, along Durant.
Additionally, an idea has recently come forward regarding a parking garage beneath Wagner Park. This was also suggested a couple of decades ago. If possible, it would have been nice to have Wagner Park and an underground downtown parking garage beneath. Now, the construction is probably seen as being too disruptive of key activities at Wagner Park, particularly Food and Wine and perhaps too expensive. However, if the bus terminal was moved to the Rio Grande area, the current bus parking at Rubey Park could become a parking lot with the same metered parking as the rest of Aspen. And, the other parking on the streets by Rubey Park would not be taken away for bus parking.
I think that most of us would agree that 30 or so parked cars are less unsightly than 25 to 29 parked buses and, with the additional parking for shoppers and diners, Aspen's businesses would be appreciative.
If the Rubey Park location was used for small buses and for Aspen Mountain ski buses in winter, and all the larger downvalley and Snowmass/Highlands/Buttermilk buses were going to a terminal at Rio Grande, there would be no need for a larger terminal at Rubey Park.
I hope that this proposed plan for Rubey Park is not just slipped through, and that all other possibilities will be considered. Just because Rubey Park is where the station is now doesn't necessarily mean that it's the best place for it.
If there is $5 million available to expand the bus station, that money, I think, will be better spent at a different long-term location.