Kids, cars and free parking
ASPEN Parents likely will argue for counting kids toward a free Aspen carpool parking pass during Tuesday’s Aspen City Council meeting.Rankled parents wrote letters to the editor and called council members after they voted to deny parents the parking perk that goes along with a carpool. Hilary McKie of Carbondale said she has used the free parking passes a great deal when bringing kids upvalley and that the change is “ridiculous.” Sara Burrows, the executive director of the Early Learning Center in Aspen, said many of her teachers use the passes, as well as parents who bring kids to the child-care center. “It’s being done because we’re concerned about the number of cars entering Aspen,” said Councilman Jack Johnson. “Are we going to take measures to reduce traffic, or are we not? That’s the real question.”Council members said some of the complaints are valid but that the issue is more complicated than it seems. Mayor Helen Klanderud even said some valley residents have said that since dogs are not allowed on buses, they should count toward the parking pass. “It’s probably one of the most complicated issues we deal with,” Klanderud said. “Everyone is not going to be happy.”Parents will ask the city to re-examine the new policy before it takes effect June 10, though the city hasn’t placed the issue on Tuesday’s agenda. The change officially lowers the requirement for carpools from three people to two, but both have to be of driving age. The policy does not affect the HOV lanes in the valley – it is only for the unlimited free parking passes that car pools are eligible for in designated zones and residential areas within Aspen. Council members said they are looking for ways to reduce traffic congestion and at that kids being part of a carpool was a loophole that needed close. The passes are available at a hut at the Aspen/Pitkin County Airport and at the Rio Grande Parking Garage. Some have suggested that only Sardy Field should hand out passes so parents can’t grab a few kids in town, drive them to daycare and have free parking all day. “There are a number of ideas,” Klanderud said. “We want to reduce vehicular traffic, and if you’re transporting kids who can’t drive anyway then it’s not helping.”Johnson said he recognized that the issue is different for parents with kids of different ages. Klanderud said many of the complaints have come from the parents with younger kids who have to go to daycare.There may be a problem if parents are bringing kids in to town in order to get a parking pass when the kid could have just as easily have taken the school bus, Johnson said. To some extent, there are ways that council members could see the perk helping take cars off the road and other ways people could abuse the pass. At this point, there is no plan to put the issue on the agenda, though some parents are hoping to get it there. “Each of us has to take our share of the responsibility,” Klanderud said. “Let’s say we make an exception for this. Where’s the next exception? The dog issue is one of them.” Joel Stonington’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org
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