Roger Marolt: The West End sneak is a game of survival
There was a guy interviewed in the paper who lives on West Smuggler Street. He claims that he and others living on that street are bearing a disproportionate share of the hardships associated with evening rush hour traffic. It’s hard to argue unless you think about it. I bet the people in the cars driving past his house every day on their way home might be bearing a larger share of that burden. They have to go through it in the mornings on the other side of town, too.
We must get over ourselves. It is self-absorption to the saturation point to believe that you are especially negatively impacted by traffic in this town. Everybody hates it — locals, tourists, commuters, sightseers, cabbies, shuttlers, chauffeurs, truckers, hitchhikers, bus drivers, travelers passing through, politicians, pedestrians, cyclists, Socialists, Republicans, Democrats, bureaucrats, every race, every creed, every color, even developers. So, excuse me when you have to lock your kids in the backyard to play while I drive past your front one on the way home to be with my family.
Sorry for the rant. It’s frustration boiling in thin air. It’s anarchy on our streets. It’s an old lady riding my bumper flipping me off for yielding to an older lady in a crosswalk. It is better to let it all out here on paper than out on the asphalt where folks are only tying to get somewhere safely or perhaps posing in the middle of a Main Street crosswalk to get an awesome selfie.
We thought we could discourage people from driving into town by eliminating parking spots. That hasn’t worked. If anything, we’ve created another dopamine buzz. There is not much better than eventually squeezing into a parking spot in downtown Aspen right in front of where you want to be. It’s addicting.
Any plan to limit parking as a means to traffic control is based on the assumption that people think ahead. I don’t do that when I come to Aspen. Why would anyone else? I’ll figure out what to do with the car once I get here. If nothing else, I can park in a loading zone for a few minutes with my hazard lights flashing or double park in front of the store while whomever I’m with runs in and grabs a few things. I also can just drive around until something opens up. I will probably find a parking spot before the people I drop off first get seated in the restaurant. I’ll scrape the red “A” sticker off my rear window before I valet park.
Of course, I am environmentally aware, so I am kidding about playing this parking game, sort of. Occasionally I do a few of these things. OK, OK, I do all of them but not as often as other people do. I have a hunch that locals who sing the highest praises of offseason are the ones most fatigued from playing the busy-season parking game the hardest. It’s at least as fun as the West End sneak.
The truth is that traffic and parking say much more about Aspen than we care to admit: Namely, we are not a town anymore. It’s sad but true. Real towns no more have traffic like we do than real boys have wooden noses.
As long as we are telling the truth, our city is the entire Roaring Fork Valley. Aspen is an expensive neighborhood. Snowmass Village is a retirement community. Tourists don’t realize this but most who live from here to Glenwood (locals leave off the “Springs”) do. Aspen could not function without the downvalley communities. And, they could not function without Aspen. OK, OK, they could possibly function without Aspen but not well.
Communities in the Roaring Fork Valley need to work better together. The rest of the country is getting hotter summers and we are getting milder winters. More people are coming to stay. There is going to be more traffic.
There is land downvalley for building affordable housing. In exchange for that, Aspen could make getting in and out of town easier for commuters. It actually would not be a mortal sin to build a straight-shot across Marolt open space. That hurts more to say it than I thought, but it remains no less true. We could open up the bus lanes and make them HOV lanes instead. We could add more lanes. Light rail is overdue, so we might as well start planning that now, too.
Aspen is no longer a secret treasure for the few, so we might as well try to make it better for the many who are here. Email at email@example.com.
In 2019 Aspen’s electorate approved a contentious ballot issue by a 26-vote margin that paved the way for the 81-room Gorsuch Haus project. The hotel was to be part of a major redevelopment at the base of Aspen Mountain’s west side that is also slated to include a new ski lift and ski museum.
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