THE BUZZ 2: Traffic Tribulations

By on April 25, 2017

Some want action on Stilson and START now to mitigate motor vehicle congestion.

The days of vehicular madness are approaching.

JACKSON HOLE, WY – When town and county electeds discuss traffic and transportation during joint informational meetings this week, they will be presented with persuasive community input.

A community gathering at the Old Wilson Schoolhouse on April 18 canvased the public on possible solutions to Jackson’s increasingly severe summertime traffic problems on Highways 22 and 390. Though public input is still ongoing, the organizers of the event will present an interim report to the town and county in time for their meeting. A main focus of the event was year-round park-n-ride options at Stilson parking lot.

Four organizations—Teton Village Association, Snake River Fund, Friends of Pathways and the Old Wilson Schoolhouse—teamed up under the banner “Teton Traffic Busters” to host the event.

While organizers aimed to put a congenial face on the gathering, Teton County Commissioner Greg Epstein was blunt when he discussed the intent. “The reason they created this workshop was in response to the county’s lack of response to providing such a workshop about Stilson,” he said.

Epstein, who attended the event, said he has been pushing for a conversation about expanding park-and-ride options at Stilson parking lot since he was elected to the board, but had been “stonewalled” by other commissioners.

“We as a county are still under the direction of a previous board’s approach to Stilson, which was basically that they weren’t going to talk about it,” Epstein said. “It’s time to move forward. I don’t see any reason why there shouldn’t be an open level of communication.”

TVA executive director Melissa Turley is eager to communicate with the county and share their successes with wintertime traffic. TVA has been successful in keeping wintertime traffic levels similar to what they were in 2000 by efficiently utilizing START and a park-and-ride system via Stilson parking lot. “We have been interested in having Stilson be better utilized year round,” Turley said.

When town and county approved the Integrated Transportation Plan in 2015, Turley said TVA stepped up immediately to volunteer its expertise.

Turley emphasized her intent to work in conjunction with the county to find solutions. “Obviously the commission knows traffic is a critical issue,” she said. “This event wasn’t to say that they aren’t working on it. It was to say this is a complex problem and we need every tool in the toolbox.”

An estimated 125 people attended the three-hour open house. The participating organizations hosted tables in the lobby of the Old Wilson Schoolhouse. The public could go from station to station to learn about the key focus of each organization. Participants were invited to fill out a public survey regarding traffic solutions. The survey is available through April 28 at SurveyMonkey.com/R/TetonTrafficBusters.

Pathways promoted its summer commuter challenge, Pathways access, and the Teton Rideshare program. Old Wilson Schoolhouse Community Center advocated for retaining the town of Wilson’s essential character.

The Snake River Fund’s main area of focus was parking for the Wilson boat ramp. The organization has several suggestions for diverting traffic at the actual boat ramp area and instead encouraging users to park at the Stilson parking lot. Incentives included improving access to restrooms at Stilson, testing a dedicated bike share idea, and creating a shuttle between the Stilson parking area and the river. Snake River Fund executive director Len Carlman said the ideas were “warmly received and endorsed” by the public.

Carlman says the goal of the open house was to generate positive ideas and solutions to traffic problems along Highway 22 and Highway 390, as well as the river access near Wilson Bridge. “It was a full house of interested citizens and a rich array of information for people to consider,” he said.

Teton County Commissioner Smokey Rhea attended the open house. She talked with folks of all ages and with different interests, from bike commuting to commuting by bus. “The event gave me a chance to talk to people about how the bus can change Jackson into being more environmentally friendly,” Rhea said.

“When you look at the number of people the START bus system takes off the road,” she continued, “think of how many cars that is in a day’s time.”

Epstein said he was impressed by the event’s turnout and encouraged to just see public participation that wasn’t necessarily government sponsored. “I want to continue to see the public be engaged, because ultimately I would hope the other commissioners will jump on board with this.”

In addition to expanded bus routes, Turley hopes to build covered bike storage at Stilson. She said TVA has the budget to purchase several bike lockers that would allow commuters to park at Stilson where their bikes would be stored securely.

This would give commuters from Wilson and Idaho an option to bike part of the way to work. “It’s a near term solution,” Turley said.

Rhea says small solutions like expanded bus routes, bike lockers, and expanded park-and-ride options could go a long way toward alleviating traffic problems. “We always search for one big answer. But I don’t think that’s going to happen,” she said. “It’s going to take a lot of little things. So let’s focus on what we can do.”

Let’s get everybody off the road who wants to be off the road, she said. PJH

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About Meg Daly

Meg Daly is a freelance writer and arts instigator. She grew up in Jackson in the 1970s and 80s, when there were fewer fences, but less culture. Follow Meg on Twitter @MegDaly1

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