A decade ago, writing about the hellacious commute many put up with to get into Aspen, was almost a daily occurance. It looks likethe region is heading into another similar cycle of concern
Perhaps the most obvious human cost of the upper valley’s stratospheric real estate market is the ever-longer commutes from affordable homes to higher-paying jobs in or near Aspen. Long commutes cost time and money; they pollute the environment and erode people’s sense of community. Most of the those who spend hours of each working day on Highway 82 have accepted the commute as a necessary trade-off, but it’s getting harder for upper valley employers to find the help they need . . .
More and more Aspen workers are commuting over the Grand Hogback, an area named for a ridge along Interstate 70 west of Glenwood Springs, to towns like New Castle, Silt and Rifle.
“Ridership is going through the roof,” said Dave Iverson, operations manager with Roaring Fork Transportation Authority. Statistics for city transport in Aspen and Glenwood have increased sharply, and the number of riders traveling the length of the valley and along the Hogback are rising steadily. In December 2006, nearly 23,000 riders made the round trip to Carbondale, and nearly 6,000 made the trip through the Hogback area, he said, a rise of 13 percent since 2005 . . .
Aspen faces a shrinking labor market, and even Aspen’s affordable housing program, which provides the option of lower-cost home ownership in Aspen, is not enough to entice many to the area. Many home-buyers choose the free market, even if it means moving to western Garfield County, over the 3 percent appreciation caps on employee-housing units in the upper Roaring Fork Valley.