City nixes expansion of paid parking
Paid parking will not expand into the neighborhoods surrounding Aspen’s commercial core, at least not this summer.The Aspen City Council on Monday rejected that idea by a 3-2 vote, with Mayor Helen Klanderud and council members Rachel Richards and Torre voting against the plan.There was no mention of what the council would do with an estimated $700,000 in savings now that the city won’t have to purchase 70 pay stations. City staff proposed the expansion, by a distance of three blocks out from the commercial core, as a way to decrease traffic into town and free up parking spaces for area residents.The measure received preliminary approval two weeks ago, pending a second reading, public hearing and final consideration of changes to the parking fee schedules. The council denied it Monday after scant public comment, none of it in favor of the proposed expansion.”My main concern is, who are we punishing?” asked longtime resident and local dentist David Swersky. The answer, he said, is “those who can least afford it,” meaning local employees and customers.”I think we’re scaring away the middle class,” he continued. “This paid parking plays into the hands of the elitists.” Opposition also came in the form of a packet of written comments, which Klanderud presented to the council.Councilmen J.E. DeVilbiss and Jack Johnson, who voted in favor of the expansion, argued that it was the only tool they had to stem the rising tide of cars coming into Aspen every day.”I wish we had a better solution,” DeVilbiss intoned.Johnson noted that, for the expansion of paid parking to really work, it must come hand-in-hand with significant new “incentives” to encourage people to use mass transit. However, he continued to support the proposal in advance of such incentives.The mayor, after suggesting the city needs to look at reclaiming use of a large gravel lot at the Pitkin County Airport that once was an intercept lot for cars and buses, announced that she would be voting against the expansion plans.”I have heard very little support for this,” she said, but noted that “policywise, it makes the best sense” to go along with the proposal.Still, she questioned assumptions that all motorists doing the “two-hour shuffle” to avoid tickets are people working in businesses in the commercial core. She also worried that by putting parking meters in the neighborhoods immediately surrounding the business district, commuting workers might be pushed to park in the commercial core, which would take needed parking spaces away from customers.Finally, she said, “I don’t think that this is going to get people on buses” and declared that she would go with her “gut reaction … I think the time is wrong to change this.”The council did agree to modify service-vehicle parking fees for the commercial core, which have been a flat $100 per year. Starting this summer, service vehicles will have to pay 50 cents for the first hour of parking, and $1 for every additional hour, with no time limit. That equates to a maximum of $7.50 per day.The council directed parking supervisor Tim Ware to come back in six months with an evaluation of the fee change.John Colson’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org
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