Parking in Aspen on Sundays to stay free
October 26, 2011
ASPEN – In a brief discussion Tuesday night, the Aspen City Council decided to pass on the idea of charging for parking in the city’s commercial core on Sundays.
“It’s off the table,” said Randy Ready, assistant city manager.
The concept had surfaced in a previous City Council work session in order to generate extra revenue for other projects, including programs such as the Rio Grande parking garage roof replacement and in-town bus services.
Ashley Ernemann, the city’s assistant finance director, had estimated that charging to park on Sundays could result in an extra $105,000 annually.
In the current parking system, Sundays and city holidays are always free. During the offseason, Saturdays are free; also, parking is free before 10 a.m. and after 6 p.m.
The idea of paid parking on Sundays and allowing free parking on Saturdays also came up. But council decided to boot that idea as well, citing as example shoppers who help retail shops that do well on Saturdays also pay for parking. Retailers would not want free parking on Saturdays when motorists could leave their vehicles parked for the whole day outside store fronts.
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Mayor Mick Ireland spoke on how the money from parking funds other transportation and parking services.
“There is an impression by the public that we do parking ticket enforcement and meters so that we can have more money to build big government,” Ireland said. “What people are missing is that we use that money to run a service that we don’t charge for.”
Another concern for Councilman Adam Frisch was that patrons often pay for parking on free Saturdays during the offseason because the machines will still accept money.
The parking meters, which are programmed on a schedule of times to charge, would need reprogramming on Saturday each time the season changed, when they go from free in the offseason to paid during the season. Tim Ware, head of the city’s parking department, said it would cost about $12,000 to reprogram the machines twice a year.
“Right now it would be very cost-prohibitive to [reprogram],” Ware said. “Saturday dates are always changing from when we start up to when we shut down.”
Ware said that in 2016, the city will replace meters with ones that can be programmed differently, and it will become a non-issue. Patrons who pay with cell phones – an estimated 40 percent of meter users – never will be charged for paying on the free Saturdays because the programming is different with the phones.
Ware said Aspen is like most cities, including Denver, and keeps money paid into meters on free days, but it is different because Aspen’s machines won’t take money after hours.
“We are pretty unique at this point in time that we can shut them down after hours,” Ware said.
Ware said he could not estimate how much money patrons spend on free parking.
The council recommended more signs to inform the public that it does not need to pay for parking on Saturdays during the offseason.