CB looks to emphasize more biking, walking and public transit

Parking, bridges, roundabouts all to be discussed this summer

By Mark Reaman

Crested Butte’s town staff is in the middle of gathering information to eventually come up with a new Transportation and Mobility plan for the town and perhaps the nearby region. The goal is to keep Crested Butte a pedestrian- and townie-first community by de-emphasizing cars and focusing on walking, biking and transit. A recent request for formal feedback on the idea of opening up the Butte Avenue bridge to one-way vehicle traffic has caught the attention of local residents stirring up conversation, and that is exactly what the town wants.

“The Town is now in Phase Two (May – July) of the process, which is all about identifying our biggest challenges and opportunities,” explained Crested Butte community development director Troy Russ. “The Town is doing some broad community outreach to vet the big and hairy challenge questions that came out of the workshops. While we found great alignment on many solutions, many ideas have differing opinions, and this is where the town’s ‘Think Tank’ comes in. Throughout July, you’ll see a ‘question of the week’ in each edition of the CB News, as well as posters on bathroom stalls throughout town asking you to share your opinions on these controversial questions.”

Several local focus groups comprised of stakeholders convened this spring to discuss transportation and mobility in CB and the town brought in experts through webinars to explain various elements of successful pedestrian and bike-oriented communities. Mounds of data were also compiled in part through tracking of cell phone data and previous CB parking plans were re-analyzed.

Other ideas to stir conversation

Aside from the Butte Avenue bridge issue, the town is throwing out the suggestions of a roundabout at the school turn at the intersection of Red Lady Avenue and Sixth Street, making it harder to drive into town by reducing the availability and convenience of parking in order to boost transit ridership, asking what should be done with Elk Avenue in general, soliciting feedback on what improvements to the regional bus systems would get people to ride them more and what can be done to improve the pedestrian and bicycling experience in Crested Butte.

“This goal is all about putting pedestrians, bikes and transit first — where having and driving a car doesn’t need to be the first choice,” emphasized Russ. “This is all about lifting up and prioritizing these other modes of travel, not eliminating cars. Historically, this has not been the practice of the town and resulting town policies and actions may sound threatening to some individuals who believe the automobile should be the first consideration the town incorporates into all transportations decisions. 

“Staff interprets this goal as creating a more balanced transportation system where walking, biking and transit are viable transportation options that equally contribute to the mobility of our residents, employees and visitors,” Russ continued. “In time, this goal may evolve further to reduce the mobility of the automobile as the alternative modes of travel are stabilized and improved, but not in this planning horizon. “

Take a bus to the trailhead?

The plan is intended to focus on transportation and mobility within the town boundaries. But Russ said the regional context of how people move into, out of and through Crested Butte is very important. “We anticipate this plan could come up with several ideas to further evaluate with regional partners as part of an upcoming regional integrated land use and transportation plan,” he said. “In the meantime, we are hosting a regional collaboration retreat on August 22 with elected officials and key staff from across the region to discuss the regional context of the Transportation Plan and how initial ideas for solutions could impact different areas of the region.”  

Russ said that many of the common themes from the workshops were that stakeholders want to celebrate the town’s successes on how pedestrian-oriented Crested Butte is, “but that there are improvements that are needed to be made to make mobility’s first choice be boots, bikes and buses. So far, our community seems very open to experimenting with trying new transportation solutions and making some bold changes to make this goal a reality.” 

While Crested Butte is obviously the primary hub of activity within the North Valley, Russ said understanding opportunities to accommodate trips in different modes of travel into the town and through the town, in both summer and winter, will be an important challenge for this new plan. “It’s critical to look at how to both facilitate opportunities to improve transit service to diminish commuting by car, while increasing housing opportunities for the workforce closer to where they live,” he added. “Additionally, improving connectivity between communities, whether through transit or recreation paths could encourage different modes of travel.”

He admitted that acknowledging that not everyone can ride a bike to town from CB South is also important. “We need to remember that different ages in life, mobility abilities, perspectives and individual comfort levels can impact each person’s experience walking or biking around Crested Butte,” Russ said. “Additionally, Crested Butte’s winters add an extra challenge to walkability. Improving sightlines at intersections through adjusted snow removal practices and discussing whether to fully heat or not heat sidewalks are two solutions that will need to be considered.”

Provide feedback

The town’s webpage has a copious amount of data on the issue which can be accessed by everyone. Town wants feedback on the ideas being developed. Russ said there are various ways to participate. “The two main remaining ways to participate in this phase are to participate in the Think Tank and add your concerns to the digital mobility map, both of which can be accessed on the Town’s transportation plan webpage at www.crestedbutte-co.gov/getinvolved,” he said. “Then, save the date for the next open house on August 3 and watch for the publication of the Phase Two Summary on July 23. Additionally, we have scheduled two town council work sessions as well. They will be held on August 8 and October 2.”

Feedback is also always welcome to town staff. Contact them at transportation@crestedbutte-co.gov to share your ideas or set up a meeting. 

Russ said staff is compiling all feedback and will include it in a summary of Phase Two to the town council on July 24. That will include initial success measures and draft alternative solutions to consider. 

From there, staff will kick off the final phase of the plan in August, starting with a community open house on August 3 to review Phase Two and solicit feedback on the draft alternative solutions. 

The third phase will be completed by drafting and refining the plan. The Town is recruiting an advisory committee with participants from earlier phases to hold staff accountable as the plan is drafted. There will be more public meeting opportunities during council work session presentations and discussions and a draft plan feedback period. 

The Town’s goal is to release the draft plan in late September and then return to council for adoption in early November. 

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