Paid parking plan feels hasty, unarticulated |

Paid parking plan feels hasty, unarticulated

There are good intentions behind the city of Aspen’s recent decision to expand paid parking beyond the commercial core. But one has to question whether the decision was made hastily, without a complete explanation to the public.The situation on some residential streets surrounding the commercial core is frustrating for both the people who live there and the city’s parking enforcers.Employees from surrounding businesses (including – yes, we admit it – a handful of Aspen Times employees) drive to work and park in the two-hour residential parking district that abuts the commercial core. It’s rare that all of the parking within two blocks of The Aspen Times is occupied, but some streets do fill up.And every few hours a shuffle occurs, as employees from nearby businesses leave work to move their cars and escape the wrath of the ticket man (or lady).The plan, which the City Council adopted on a split, 3-2 vote this week, would expand the metered parking now used in the downtown area. Free, two-hour parking would continue in residential areas of the West End and other neighborhoods that are more than three blocks from the core.There are some obvious benefits to this program. It will make it easier for residents and their guests to find a parking spot. More importantly, it will likely convince numerous commuters to ride the bus.Unfortunately, the program hasn’t been articulated properly.The proposal to expand paid parking was made public just a few weeks ago, and now it’s becoming the law of the land. Some questions need to be answered before the meters appear.For instance, how will the city reduce the impacts on outlying neighborhoods that will suddenly be the first choice for commuters who continue to drive?What about parents with children in day care at the Yellow Brick Schoolhouse? Must moms and dads pay for parking in order to drop off their children? The same question applies to the gymnastics and rock climbing classes at the Red Brick.Can the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority handle the additional passengers, especially on high-season commuter runs? In December, downvalley buses were filled to bursting.It makes sense for the city to use both sticks and carrots to get people out of their cars and onto buses, but it’s important to remember that bus service beyond El Jebel is inadequate for many commuters. Except on a few drive-time express buses, it takes an hour and 15 minutes to get between Carbondale and Aspen, compared with 40 minutes by car. Downvalley residents deserve a better alternative, and more frequent service, if they’re expected to change their commuting habits.City officials have a lot of questions to answer before the new meters go live. And if they don’t have answers, then perhaps they should delay implementation until they’ve thought the consequences through.

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