How to avoid an Aspen parking ticket |

How to avoid an Aspen parking ticket

Janet Urquhart
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
Aspen Times fileThe worst thing about parking in Aspen, aside from trying to find a spot, is getting a ticket when you've found one.

ASPEN ” The first thing you need to know about parking in Aspen is don’t, if you don’t have to.

A free in-town bus system, free skier shuttles during the ski season from Aspen to Aspen Highlands, Buttermilk and Snowmass, fare buses connecting to points downvalley and Aspen’s pedestrian-friendly layout all mean you can easily manage a vacation in Aspen without a vehicle, if you’re flying here.

In addition, most hotels and lodges offer shuttle service to and from the airport. And, accommodations within Aspen itself are generally within easy walking distance of downtown and Aspen Mountain.

But if you’re driving, chances are, you’ll wind up with a parking ticket ” that is, if you find a space ” unless you know the ins and outs of Aspen’s parking situation. If it’s your first ticket ever, however, it won’t be a ticket. Instead, you’ll find a warning on your windshield. It’s like a Mulligan in golf, but you only get the one freebie.

A parking fine in the residential areas runs $40 ($50 if you don’t pay up within 10 days) and a ticket for parking downtown without plugging the meter is $30. Parking illegally in a commercial lot could get your vehicle booted ” getting it unbooted can cost in the $100 range.

If you park downtown, you need to pay a meter on Monday through Saturday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Parking is free on evenings, Sundays and holidays.

There’s generally one meter per block on each side of the street, rather than the old-style meter in front of every parking spot. The meters take quarters and credit cards, but not paper bills; you can buy from one to four hours of time. You can also pay be phone ” see the stickers affixed to each meter for directions. To leave your car in the spot for more than four hours, you need to go back and buy more time. The meter will spit out a ticket, to be displayed on the dash, that displays a time. Once the clock ticks past that time, you’re meter is expired.

Paid parking in the downtown core costs $2 for the first hour, $2 for the second hour, $3 for the third hour and $4 for the fourth hour. In other words, if you plug a meter for four hours, it’ll cost $11.

Outside the core is free parking in the residential neighborhoods, but it’s two hours maximum on weekdays. Move your vehicle at the two-hour mark or risk a ticket. (The city is moving toward eliminating this free parking alternative via the shuffling of one’s vehicle every two hours in February.) On weekends, the two-hour limit is not enforced.

One can exceed the two-hour limit in the residential zone with a residential pass, provided by your lodge, or a one-day pass that costs $7. The pass is available at the Parking Department (open Monday through Friday), City Market stores from Glenwood Springs to Aspen, at the summer visitor kiosk on the mall, and at the visitor centers inside the Wheeler Opera House and off Rio Grande Place, next to the Rio Grande parking garage.

Long-term parking is available at the parking garage, a block north of Main Street. It offers 24-hour covered parking that can be purchased by the hour or the day. The Galena Street Shuttle provides transportation around town from the Galena Street Plaza atop the garage. The shuttle runs continuously from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. in the winter.

Garage rates are $1.50 per hour or $15 maximum per day (24 hours). A 10-use punch pass is available for $50 (if you park in the garage, leave and come back, the return to the garage will cost another punch) and an unlimited pass, good for as many trips in and out of the garage as you want to make, sells for $200 per month.

To find the garage, if you’re coming from the west, or downvalley (Glenwood Springs, Carbondale, Basalt), turn left at the third traffic signal on Main Street (Highway 82 in downtown Aspen). You’ll be on Mill Street. Then make a right on Rio Grande Place and watch for the garage on the right. From the east (over Independence Pass in the summertime), turn right at the second signalized intersection on Main Street and then right again, off Mill Street and onto Rio Grande Place.

The garage is open 24 hours a day; the attendant booth is staffed from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

The city’s Parking Department offices have moved out of City Hall and into new quarters at 540 E. Main St. Office hours are 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday. The department’s phone number is 920-5267.