Aspen airport towing for unattended cars begins Wednesday |

Aspen airport towing for unattended cars begins Wednesday

Starting today, cars left unattended at the curbside drop-off or pick-up areas at Aspen airport will be towed immediately.

That’s according to David Schneider, the airport’s security coordinator, who on Tuesday blamed the change on the federal Transportation Security Administration.

“TSA could have picked a better time,” Schneider told Pitkin County commissioners, referring to Aspen’s peak Christmas season. “It’s an uncomfortable transition.”

Nonetheless, the change is going into affect today and will entail posting a tow truck at the airport, he said. Vehicles that are towed will be taken to an area at the airport and vehicle owners will not be charged for the tow at least through the Christmas season, Schneider said.

Hotels will not be able to leave vehicles unattended at the curbside to meet guests inside the terminal, while ground transportation vehicles like taxis and vans also cannot be left unattended, he said.

Pitkin County Board Chairwoman Patti Clapper summed up the new change succinctly.

“Do not park in front of our airport or you will be towed,” she said. “And it’s not coming from us.”

Schneider said multiple airport staff members will be walking around outside to warn people of the new rule, while numerous signs warning of the change have been posted inside and outside the terminal. In addition, the airport will staff a ground transportation podium inside the airport to notify passengers when a hotel van or limo has arrived to pick them up, Schneider said.

Commissioners emphasized Tuesday the need to get the message out to Aspen visitors.

“Obviously we’re heading into one of the busiest times of the year,” Commissioner George Newman said. “Customer service should be paramount.”

Commissioner Rachel Richards worried about what solutions might be available for senior citizens, the disabled or parents dropping off young children traveling alone. She suggested looking into hiring “car minders,” though Schneider said he didn’t think TSA would be receptive to the idea of non-owners looking after cars parked at the airport curb.

Commissioner Steve Child marveled that it has taken this long for Aspen to catch up to nearly every other airport in the country.

“I’ve been shocked that people have been allowed to keep their car there unattended,” he said. “You can’t do that at any other airport.”

He suggested designating some of the short-term parking spaces closest to the terminal as 15-minute spaces for those who need to enter the terminal.

Clapper, however, said any effort to carve parking spaces from the already-in-demand short-term parking lot is sure to generate multiple complaints.

“It’s always full in that lot,” she said.

Child pointed out that it’s free to park in the short-term lot for an hour.

The county is currently paying to have the tow truck on call at the airport, Schneider said. That will likely continue through at least the Christmas season, he said. After that, those with towed vehicles will have to pay the tow company.

Another tip this Christmas season for people with flights leaving Aspen in the early morning is to arrive early, Schneider said. Between six and seven flights are scheduled to leave between 7 and 8 a.m., which will likely create a logjam checking in and in the security line, he said.

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