Aspen offers free downtown parking for two Saturdays
December 12, 2008
ASPEN ” The city of Aspen will offer free Saturday parking on the two weekends before Christmas in an effort to spur holiday shopping in the resort’s retail core.
The city announced Friday that motorists needn’t plug the meters to park downtown on Dec. 13 and Dec. 20 ” a move some merchants lauded, but one that others don’t expect to make much of a difference at the cash register.
Parking is always free on Sundays in downtown Aspen, but foregoing the revenue generated by paid parking on two successive Saturdays before Christmas probably means $6,000 to $7,000 per day in parking fees that the city won’t collect, according to Tim Ware, head of the city’s Parking Department.
“I don’t know how much effect it will have, but we’ll see,” Ware said. “We’ll give it a try.”
Parking enforcement officers will still work on the two Saturdays, and they’ll be monitoring the downtown spaces to see if the promotion draws more motorists to town, Ware said.
“We’ll kind of do some counts. Is it busier than a normal Saturday? We’ll see if it gets people in here,” he said.
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Some business operators predict the free parking will entice people to drive to town ” just not to go shopping.
“I think skiers will take advantage of it. I don’t know about shoppers,” said one merchant who asked not to be identified.
“The employees will like it ” they won’t have to pay to park,” said another.
But Dave Durrance, a partner at Durrance Sports, praised the move as potentially good for business.
“I think it will make a difference with the downvalley folks coming up here,” he said. “I think parking, whether it’s Aspen or Vail, is such a disincentive to the companion communities in the area. Given the option to come up, many people choose not to.”
For a motorist, parking for four straight hours in downtown Aspen costs $11. It’s $22 for eight hours.
Even if someone takes advantage of the promotion to park and go skiing, they may be more likely to linger in town afterward to shop or grab a bite to eat if they’re not worried about their meter expiring, reasoned Debbie Braun, president of the Aspen Chamber Resort Association.
“If that’s stimulating the economy at all, we absolutely should be doing it,” she said. “I think it shows that, as a community, we’re trying.”
Nancy Beyea, a Snowmass Village resident swinging through an Aspen boutique on Friday morning, also believes the move will help lure shoppers.
“As a shopper and a local, I think it will make a difference,” she said.
“It’s awesome,” said Heather Lutgring at Pismo Fine Art Glass. “It can’t hurt. It’s a positive thing. It says we want people to come shop.”