Valley needs a transit study
The pieces that will help the valley solve its
transportation puzzle are beginning to fall into place. However, two groups looking at the
valleys traffic congestion may be one step ahead of themselves.
A group of local elected officials has formed to study creation of a
county-wide transit authority. Also, the Ketchum Planning and Zoning Commission is talking
about using paid parking, outlying parking lots and a future underground parking garage to
Both are good ideas, but they jump the gun. What the county needs
isyes, we hear the sighinganother study. Before the area jumps into a complex
transit authority, before Ketchum invests in its first parking meter, we need to find out
if the time is right for either step.
Everyone knows that somethings got to give on Highway 75. What
happens is a matter of choice and timing. A five-lane highway may not be the single
cheapest, easiest or safest answer to the valleys traffic woes in the long run.
We can look to other ski resorts for answers, but even though they have
similar problems, their circumstances are often not the same.
For example, Aspen is served by a single highway that runs up the Roaring
Fork Valley. Most of that highway was widened from two lanes, but ultimately widening
wasnt enough. Aspen and Pitkin County also developed a huge commuter bus system,
running up to 900 bus trips a day into Aspen. Aspen also has paid parking and has been
debating building a light rail line for commuters.
Sun Valley and the Wood River Valley are peanut-sized resort areas
compared to Aspen. In 1998-99, Aspen did more than 1.2 million skier days, compared to Sun
Valleys slightly more than 400,000.
What the size disparity means as far as the Wood River Valleys
ability to support a county-wide bus system is anyones guess. Thats why before
anyone jumps into paid parking or a transit authority, local governments need to band
together and pay for a thorough transit study.
The timing is right.
The upcoming release of a the states Highway 75 corridor study will
contain traffic counts and congestion projections upon which a county-wide transit study
could build. Building a transit study on top of the highway corridor study will save time
Local governments will soon begin to set their budgets for the coming
year. The group formed to study creation of a transit authority should get some bids from
transit consultants and figure out how the cost of the study could be split.
A bigger highway may help ease the pain of commuting, but unless we want
to pave the entire valley floor, more will be needed in the long run. Just what we will
need and when is something for the experts.