Paid parking in Aspen reinstated June 1

Cars line the parking spots on Hunter St. in downtown Aspen on Tuesday, May 19, 2020. (Kelsey Brunner/The Aspen Times)
Kelsey Brunner/The Aspen Times

As COVID-19 public health orders begin to ease and bars and restaurants are expected to partially open at the end of the month, city of Aspen officials are moving back toward normalcy when it comes to paid parking in town.

Beginning June 1, paid parking will be reinstated in the downtown core, but not at the peak prices charged during high season.

Instead, it will be $2 an hour from 10 to 11 a.m. and 3 to 6 p.m., and $4 during peak hours of the day between 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Paid parking will be enforced Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Parking has been free since late March when public health orders shut down essential businesses to slow the spread of COVID-19.

As those orders have eased and some businesses are open, the number of cars in the downtown core has dramatically increased, said Mitch Osur, the city’s director of parking.

“We are counting cars every day at 1 p.m. and on Friday 600 of the 682 spaces in the core were full and that’s with only 20% of businesses open,” he said.

He added that the city isn’t focused on making money but rather freeing up spaces currently being used by employees so they are available for people coming to town to spend money.

“When hotels and restaurants open we need these spaces,” Osur said.

Because the Aspen economy will be operating at a fraction of what a normal summer would be due to the cancellation of all major events and public health order limiting capacities at businesses, the city is phasing in its paid parking rules.

At least for the month of June the Rio Grande parking garage will remain free, as will residential zones.

Osur said city officials in late June will re-evaluate based on traffic data and bus ridership.

“We are making decisions month by month,” he said.

The number of cars coming in and out of town dropped dramatically when the first public health order came down on March 13, according to data provided by John Kruger, the city’s director of transportation.

Compared to the same time period in 2019, traffic levels fell as much as 80 percent.

From March 13 to Sunday, May 17, nearly 500,000 less cars came into and out of town over the same period in 2019.

From those dates, 947,017 vehicles traveled over the Castle Creek Bridge, where there is a counter on the roadway. In 2019 through the month of May, 1.779 million cars had come into and out of town.

The only uptick in traffic in the past two months was the week that the public health order went into effect May 9 when retail stores were allowed to open.

On Monday, May 11 and Tuesday, May 12, there was an 11% and 70% increase, respectively, over last year.

The 2019 daily average was 19,342 cars over the bridge. In 2020 thus far, it’s 12,141.

Since the COVID-19 outbreak in early March in Aspen, the least amount of cars was on April 12 when 4,346 came through. Compared with the same day in 2019, 21,313 vehicles traveled in and out of town.

Osur said with the reintroduction of paid parking, the free 15-minutes feature will remain; the code for those using apps is 2514.

And anyone who does not want to use the pay stations located on the sidewalks can use one of two payment apps, either pay by phone or way to park.

Osur reminded the public that the parking department is on patrol.

“We will continue to enforce illegal parking in residential zones and the downtown core,” he said. “Our No. 1 goal is safety.”


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