Aspen lists top parking scofflaws

Charles AgarAspen, CO Colorado

ASPEN Aspen parking officials say they don’t enjoy collecting fees, but see their work as an important part of the solution to congestion.Aspen’s top scofflaws owe the city thousands of dollars, and the department generates nearly $1 million in revenue each year, according to Tim Ware, the city’s director of parking. The city usually has between $700,000 and $900,000 in outstanding fines at any given time.Parking employees write from 30 to 100 tickets per day, each ranging in price from $20 for going overtime in metered parking to $30 for parking more than two hours in designated spots outside the core, $40 for parking illegally and $100 for parking in handicapped spaces or fire lanes.

And Aspen’s top parking scofflaw racked up more than $1,000 in fines this year, according to a list the parking department generated.Parking officials – who work a daytime schedule – carry electronic scanners that call up a driver’s parking record, so they know if a car is scheduled for towing. But police just issue more tickets.That’s how violators like Craig Lafleur, who racked up $1,220 in fines, according to the parking department, was able to continue collecting tickets without being towed – he probably parked illegally overnight.Violators have 10 days to notify the parking department that they would like to contest a ticket and can go before a municipal magistrate.And while the first-floor window to the parking department is the site of daily scenes from irate motorists disputing tickets, Ware said he understands.”You might not be having a good day,” Ware said, and a parking ticket might be the icing on the cake. “Everybody’s human – us and them.”But Ware stressed that parking laws in Aspen are not for profit (though the city stands to earn about $1 million each year in fees) nor punishment. Parking rules are a vital component to encourage single-occupancy drivers to get into car-pooling programs or onto transit, he stressed.In 1995, city officials implemented the Pay-N-Display program, instituting metered parking in the downtown corridor, and since then the number of parking violations has gone from 45,000 to 25,000.”It’s because people have options,” Ware said. They can add money to the meter, about $1 per hour, or choose free two-hour parking outside the city core.”We are trying to help,” Ware said.

Theres an old bit of local lore that your first parking ticket in Aspen is a freebie. Its true kind of. The Pay-N-Display system asks drivers to prepay for an allotment of time and display a ticket on their dashboards. But because the system was new to North America when the city first implemented the Pay-N-Display program in 1995, Ware said officials instituted one bye for drivers who might not know how to work it. Parking officers issue a warning and a list of instructions on how to use the Pay-N-Display machines for first-time offenders at downtown Pay-N-Display areas. Aspenites should know that a first $30 ticket for parking more than two hours in the noncore free parking, for example, or parking in a no-parking zone, is not a freebie.Charles Agar’s e-mail address is