Commissioners ponder airport parking increase
Aspen airport officials want to significantly increase — and in some cases more than double — parking rates at the facility to discourage abuse that comes with the relatively cheap current rates.
Pitkin County commissioners, however, balked Tuesday at the large proposed increases and asked the officials to “get creative” and find other solutions to the problem that don’t include the price-gouging common to most parking facilities in the Upper Roaring Fork Valley.
“I think these prices are way out of line,” Commissioner George Newman said. “We should not try to adjust our rates based on Aspen’s (parking rates).”
The airport’s short-term parking lot — which has 115 spaces — is currently free for the first hour and $2 an hour after that with a daily maximum of $12. The long-term lot — which has 155 spaces — is now free for the first hour and $1 an hour after that for a daily maximum of $6.
Airport officials proposed raising the hourly fee in the short-term lot to between $3 and $6 an hour with a daily maximum of $21. For the long-term parking lot, they wanted to raise the rate to $4 an hour with a daily maximum of between $12 and $18, said Chris Padilla, the airport’s controller.
They also wanted to raise the lost-ticket fine from $75 to $150 and possibly more, he said. Finally, they proposed a maximum parking duration of 30 days for the short-term lot and 45 days for the long-term lot.
The Pitkin Alert system — which texts and emails out community information — has been issuing numerous warnings lately about airport parking lots filling up. Padilla said skiers and others use the lots and jump on the free ski mountain shuttles from the airport while airport employees use them despite being provided free parking.
“We want to decrease the convenience and change behavior,” Padilla said.
Prices for other area parking facilities are much higher, according to documents provided to commissioners.
Parking in downtown Aspen is between $4 and $6 an hour with the first 15 minutes free. The Snowmass Village parking garage costs $5 an hour after the first hour, while the Aspen Highlands parking garage costs between $5 and $25 an hour depending on the amount of time you park and the day, according to the documents.
Newman suggested implementing technology that can read electronic boarding passes, or perhaps requiring travelers to make copies of boarding passes and place them on their dashboards. Non-travelers who park there could then be fined $500 “for all I care,” he said.
“That would take care of that problem pretty quickly,” he said. “We want parking for customers of the airport.”
Commissioner Patti Clapper said she thinks the short-term lot should actually be short-term, with a maximum parking duration of 15 days. But she also agreed with Newman about the large increases and said she’d like to see other ideas.
“Bring us back a more reasonable option,” she said. “These are all significant increases.”
This wasn’t my best work. I still stand by my original picks to win each of the snowboard contests at X Games Aspen 2023, but fate chose poorly. The main lesson? Don’t pick against Mark McMorris, Marcus Kleveland or Scotty James, unless you have a very good reason.