But entrance car volumes still below 1993 benchmark
Traffic volumes in Aspen rose in 2012 to their highest levels since the recession began, figures released last week by the city show.
In December, 24,788 vehicles crossed into Aspen over the Castle Creek Bridge, where the city does its traffic counts, a 7 percent increase over 2011. It was the largest monthly number since 2004.
“December had pretty big numbers,” said John Krueger, city transportation director.
The numbers for last month put it just 1.6 percent below Aspen’s targeted traffic-level goals, benchmarks that emerged in 1993.
That year, slightly more than 282,000 vehicles crossed the bridge. Officials and residents alike became fed up with congestion, sparking renewed discussions about the future of the S-curves and the implementation of a host of traffic management measures, Krueger said.
That year “triggered a lot of things,” he said. “The community came together and said that was the bar and that we don’t want traffic to exceed those numbers.”
With paid parking, increased public transportation, employer programs, car sharing and the like, traffic in the two decades since has never exceeded the 1993 levels.
“That’s really pretty amazing for any municipality to hold the line like that,” Krueger said, adding that the measures have also improved Aspen’s air quality.
Traffic increased 3.4 percent in 2012 compared to the prior year, as 263,035 cars drove into town, 7.4 percent less than the 1993 baseline. The total traffic level for 2012 was the highest since 2007, just before the recession began.
“It’s kind of consistent with the economy,” Krueger said. “Increased traffic usually relates to increased jobs and activity in the city.”
As a comparison, the city’s sales tax collections, through November 2012, were tracking 7 percent above 2011.
Traffic volumes last year exceeded 2011 numbers every month except April, which saw a 2.4 percent decline.
June saw the largest increase over 2011 as 2,400 more vehicles crossed the bridge, or 10.6 percent. June was 4 percent below the 1993 standard, while May was just 1.2 percent below the benchmark.