Parking fees suggested to drive cars off campus |

Parking fees suggested to drive cars off campus

John Colson

Should the Aspen School District institute paid parking at the schools campus as a way to discourage students and parents from driving there?

Or should the district cancel what has become a traditional bonus offered to seniors – unrestricted free parking – as an “auto-disincentive” measure?

Those were two of the suggestions tossed out at a meeting Monday evening between the Aspen City Council, Pitkin County commissioners and the Aspen School Board.

The board members present did not immediately react to the suggestions, which were made by members of the City Council and county commissioners.

The meeting was called to discuss the impending development of the Iselin Park/Rotary Park/Moore athletic fields complex on Maroon Creek Road. In May, local voters will be asked to authorize more than $16 million in bonds intended to pay for building a recreation center with a swimming pool and ice rink, and a number of other recreation projects at Iselin Park and in other areas.

At the same time, the Aspen Highlands redevelopment project farther up Maroon Creek Road is expected to have significant local impacts in terms of traffic congestion.

The schools campus, located across the road from Iselin Park, is the subject of a joint planning effort to coordinate traffic impacts and mass transit programs.

The matter of parking fees came up after Councilman Jim Markalunas gave what has become a trademark speech for him – a diatribe against the economic and social ills associated with the private car. Decrying the domination of America’s “car culture,” he told district officials, “You are part of the problem,” and demanded that they do something to discourage use of the private automobile in connection with school activities.

“So, Jim, are you saying the school should have paid parking at the schools?” demanded County Commissioner Dorothea Farris. “Because, if they do that, they have to know the City Council and the county commissioners will stand behind them.”

School board member Augie Reno, estimating that students bring roughly 150 to 160 cars into the campus parking lot per day (there currently are about 350 parking spaces on campus), pointed an accusatory finger at what has become known as the “Mommy 500” – a long line of parent-driven cars taking kids to and from school.

“It’s the adults, I think, that really are the main part of the problem,” Reno said.

The school board members at the meeting said little, but at one point, board member Jon Seigle remarked, “I think what’s happening is we, as a board, are becoming aware of the magnitude of the problem.”

When Councilman Terry Paulson brought the paid parking idea up a second time, noting it is a major source of revenue for the city, Mayor John Bennett chimed in, “I think you should look into it.”

Seigle, while not endorsing paid parking at the schools or any other idea voiced at the meeting, suggested that there be a schedule of meetings between district staffers and their counterparts at the city and the county to further explore ways to deal with the expected increase in traffic congestion.

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