Dan Furlong: Are locals the problem?
August 7, 2017
The Steamboat Pilot & Today's "JAMPACKED" article was an interesting read but missed the 800-pound moose in the room.
A comparison of U.S. census population data for Steamboat vs. the traffic count data the Pilot published, shows a surprisingly direct relationship.
The Pilot's numbers show a 76 percent increase in traffic in 24 years (about 2.2 percent per year compounded growth). Population growth (local increase) per Google is virtually the same. Most businesses would consider this (2.2%) slow growth and easy to manage. Yes there is growth, but it is hardly extreme, unexpected or unpredictable.
So since traffic count growth is directly related to population (i.e. locals) growth, are locals the real problem? Wow.
No, it's not just the locals and not just the tourists, it's the complex interactions of both, which forces periods of peak demand on a fixed (limited) infrastructure causing congestion and delays that we locals experience, and we don't like.
This recognition drives a whole new perspective and new set of questions:
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• Do we understand the impact of peaks on the town? What represents a peak? How do we (should we) define a peak? Can we agree on acceptable delays during peaks; like waiting two cycles at a light?
• Can we predict peaks?
• Where are the efforts and the focus to help manage the peaks? I can assure you there are still quiet times downtown complete with tumble weed.
When and where are the peaks, exactly? My guess is 3 to 6 p.m. daily, in the summer, on Lincoln/U.S. Highway 40, but we (locals) should know exactly by hour and by day and location, and as locals, we can act, plan and respond appropriately.
• What can we as locals do to reduce these peaks? How about bike, walk, car pool, use the buses, avoid Lincoln/40 and avoid adding to the peaks? How about shop and run errands early? I do.
• How about employers changing work schedules to avoid adding to peaks? Many of the bars and restaurants already have "off-peak" happy hours — keep up the good work.
• What are the property management companies, resorts, property owners, hoteliers and the city doing to drive the usage of our great bus system by tourists? Can the downtown merchants create a win/win for bus riders? If everyone rode the buses, downtown traffic as per your front page photo would not be an issue (the parking problem would also be mitigated).
• Why are there half as many buses in service in the summer versus the winter? They are "jampacked" in the afternoons and not nearly as convenient in the summer. I haven't seen or heard any concern for this peak traffic contributor. The city should publish ridership by day, by hour and should beef up the schedule during the peaks. Obviously, we have the buses.
• Where are the thought leaders when it comes to other peak-related issues (like overflowing trash cans on Independence Day and at athletic events)? Seems like a simple problem to solve (inexpensively) given the nature of our community.
I live downtown. I love all the energy, life and everything the town offers, much of which I know is not free. I love seeing tourists with bags from downtown merchants, I know the related purchases are paying some town bills.
The tourist is the Golden Goose that both enjoys and provides for this great town. The tourist trade needs be nourished. It needs to grow. Most of us (locals) understand this.
I have met the enemy, and it is not the tourist. The 800-pound moose in the room is us, the locals, the folks that live here. The locals own the fix and can deliver.