We have some perpetual problems. When a problem lasts for decades then it's something which is symptomatic of something deep- a division at the root of our community. Traffic is one of those problems and the S curves rear up like a cobra's head bobbing back and forth while we look for a local mongoose or at very least someone with a bit of charm and a flute. County and City have just authorized another $500K study of the entrance to Aspen.
Popular wisdom points a finger at construction traffic. The guests we can ferry in and out pretty well. We could make that more efficient with simple cost effective measures like a shuttle directly to arrivals and departures at the airport. That would be easy. We're allergic to easy, but that's another discussion.
Are there ways to slow the real estate/construction market? I mean other than whinging that we don't want more growth while we pocket all the cash growth brings?
You could reduce the second home owners claiming residency in their 2nd/3rd/4rth home by imposing a City/County income tax- targeting the $million income crowd and that would force a few out- but probably not before they tried to make a profit on a re-sale.
We could ignore our aging buildings and infrastructure and let it rot. Some of us remember Aspen when it was full of derelict houses - if you like that sort of thing move to Cisco Utah - or the top of Aspen street. Live with no indoor plumbing, running water or heat a couple of years and then decide if that’s quaint and cozy.
Construction could certainly be more efficient. Now we're so grateful to get a contractor who will deal with the draconian depths of the Aspen Planning department we’re willing to say yes to any timeline.
What about stopping new construction? Once those older edifices have rotted it’s certainly easier to build new.
Moratorium you say! Allow me to gently whisper “supply and demand” to remind everyone how we got our first real estate bubble in the 70’s. Limit the supply and the demand soars.
Kill the goose you say! Sabotage the lifts, bomb the Wheeler, nuke the mountains then people will leave us alone in the rubble. I mumble again “Jim tried that…"
Destroy City Hall you say! It's all the government's fault. Well, if you really want anarchy default on a couple of City and County loans which might wreck the credit rating - that should bring the budget and the bureaucracy down. Referendums are ham fisted inelegant blunt force weapons use the silent stiletto of finance. It worked with the repeal of the Sherman Silver Purchase Act and devaluation of silver in 1893.
Does this sound like "a modest proposal"? Well, it is. These solutions eat our own children, force doesn't work, from the rubble new stakeholders will emerge all seeking the same comfort and power as the regime they helped destroy.
Maybe we want something other than Mad Max in the Rockies. Maybe we want a positive strategy which enhances the quality of life rather than smashing things in a hissy fit. Maybe quality of life is more than money. Maybe it's quality of life for every life.
What is the answer to that long snake of traffic which makes Aspen a miniature FDR drive or 405? There really is only one answer which I can think of. Reduce the number of commuters. House laborers and their equipment at the point of need. Support more telecommuting and remote offices. Allow "pop up" mobile housing for the duration of the project.
Encourage the nomadic workforce of the sharing economy (Oh, what one Basque sheepherder and his flock used to do grooming Aspen Mountain in a summer) .
Don't just target by age, income or time in the valley. Prioritize essential services. Work with what you have. Practice the art of the possible. Water takes the easiest path and to quote Doctor Who, "Water always wins". If none of that works for you - look around you and rejoice in what you have - practice acceptance.
Finally, don't do what we've done with every other traffic study we've ever paid for- don't pay for it and shove it in a drawer kicking the can down the S curves for another generation.