Expansion of paid parking on hold | AspenTimes.com

Expansion of paid parking on hold

Carolyn Sackariason
Aspen, CO Colorado

ASPEN ” The idea of eliminating free parking in residential neighborhoods has been parked ” at least for now.

The Aspen City Council has decided to scrap a proposed ordinance that would institute paid parking in about 1,500 spaces in the residential areas three blocks off the commercial core in every direction, as well as the blocks off of Durant Avenue along the base of Aspen Mountain.

Council members were scheduled to vote on the ordinance Oct. 22. But after further consideration, they have informally decided to hold off on the idea and make sure it’s fully cooked before moving forward.

“All the council members have been talking to [assistant city manager Randy Ready] and we realized that we can do it better,” Mayor Mick Ireland said. “More possibilities have emerged.”

Elected officials also want to consider more fully the impacts expanding paid parking would have on the bus system since it would likely experience an increase in ridership. They also want to further study how it would impact tourism if visitors were forced to pay to park on side streets.

“We’ve decided to withdraw paid parking because there are many ways to do it and we want to make sure RFTA can handle increased ridership,” Ireland said.

The plan was to install 70 to 75 new pay stations throughout the neighborhoods next spring at a cost of about $950,000. The expansion would have likely taken effect next summer.

But officials have realized that the timing might be better to hold off until the exclusive bus lanes between Buttermilk and the roundabout are finished, which is expected to be sometime next year. A park-and-ride facility also will be created at Buttermilk.

“That will present a real viable option for people to come into town,” Ireland said.

The original intent of paid parking was to get people out of their cars by eliminating the option for motorists to move their vehicles every 120 minutes and escape getting a parking ticket ” also known as the “two-hour shuffle.”

That’s still possible without having people pay to park in neighborhoods surrounding the commercial core, officials said.

One option could be having the parking enforcement officers scan people’s license plates and not allow them to park in the same zone for more than two hours in a day, Ireland said.

“That bar code type of approach we want to look at,” he said.

It also would allow officials to track construction vehicles so contractors are held accountable for how many of their workers are driving into town, Ireland said. Currently, there is no way of knowing how many construction vehicles are being parked in town.

City Councilman Jack Johnson said paid parking in residential zones might be delayed now but eventually it will become a reality.

“If it’s delayed today or studied further, there will be a day in my lifetime or while I am still in office when it will happen because it is the only way to decrease traffic congestion,” he said. “Raising rates alone will not solve the problem.”

The council is expected to stay the course on its plan to increase parking fees by 30 percent in the commercial core and at the Rio Grande parking garage, which will generate an additional $536,000 annually.

Pay rates will increase effective Dec. 1.

Ireland predicts that the revenue generated by the parking fee increases will balance the budget on the Rio Grande parking garage and parking department operations.

The City Council plans on having several work sessions in the coming months to discuss the future of the parking program, the effects of expanded paid parking and what options can be explored.

Carolyn Sackariason’s e-mail address is csack@aspentimes.com.