The ball is officially rolling on a long-awaited project to upgrade Aspen’s Rubey Park transit hub.
Aspen City Council last week approved a $177,500 contract with five firms, led by local planning and design office Bluegreen, to study existing conditions, gather community input and propose schematic designs. The preliminary work, expected to wrap up around Halloween, is the first step in the process to remake Aspen’s main bus stop.
The Colorado Department of Transportation, through its FASTER program, also recently gave conditional approval for a $1.5 million grant — contingent on $200,000 in local matching funds being used for the design process — that will go toward the eventual overhaul.
Rubey Park, located on Durant Avenue between Wagner Park and gondola plaza, is owned by the city of Aspen and is leased to the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority (RFTA). It serves as the terminal for the free city of Aspen buses and skier shuttles, and is the start and end point for most Highway 82 routes.
The facility suffers from cramped and uninviting interior spaces, cracked concrete outside and subpar restrooms, staff areas and bus parking. Upgrading the local landmark has been on the city’s long-term wish list for years.
Ryan Vugteveen, Bluegreen’s project manager handling the Rubey Park contract, said that the valley enjoys a great public transit system, but its central facility reflects poorly on the state’s third-largest public bus service. For many bus riders, Rubey Park may be their first impression of Aspen, Vugteveen noted.
“Overall the site has deteriorated,” he said.
Bluegreen is leading a team comprised of Studio B Architects, an Aspen firm; Fehr and Peers, a transportation engineering outfit from Salt Lake City; HNTB, a transit architecture and planning shop out of Overland Park, Kan.; and Carbondale’s Sopris Engineering. Their combined bid beat out five others submitted in response to a request for proposals issued in February.
The group is now gathering data related to existing conditions, such as ridership and foot traffic numbers through the course of the year. It is also coming up with a “problem statement” to break down where the facility falls short, Vugteveen said, noting he plans to pick the brains of bus drivers and other RFTA employees.
The next step will be a “needs analysis,” where public agencies, user groups, neighboring businesses and the public at large will be asked for input on what they would like to see with a new and improved transit center. Bus riders will also be given surveys in both English and Spanish.
With that data in hand, the team will come up with three conceptual schematic designs for the renovation, one of which will be selected as the preferred choice. Bluegreen and the consultants will then present the designs to RFTA, the city’s Planning and Zoning and Historic Preservation commissions, and eventually City Council.
At the core of the work will be three public meetings, held during critical phases of the project. The first one will be in May or June, focusing on existing conditions, Vugteveen said. Meetings focused on needs analysis and design review will follow. There will also be numerous smaller focus groups and work session updates to City Council, as well as a dedicated project website.
“Before we can propose anything we need to reach out to the community to get the feedback we need,” he said.
The Elected Officials Transportation Committee, which controls millions of dollars from a dedicated transportation sales tax, is funding the initial outreach and design contract. The money is coming out of a $4 million “lockbox” of funds dedicated to the entrance to Aspen, of which transit officials consider Rubey Park a component.
RFTA is also in the process of a $46 million “bus rapid transit” project upgrading its Highway 82 service from Aspen to Glenwood Springs.
The Rubey Park contract breaks down as such: $32,500 for public process and outreach; $25,000 for existing conditions; $25,000 for a needs analysis; $62,500 for schematic designs; $12,500 for project administration; $5,000 for final deliverable materials; and $15,000 for expenses.