Parking rates going up; how do you feel? | AspenTimes.com

Parking rates going up; how do you feel?

Janet Urquhart
Aspen Times Staff Writer

Rich Wagar is getting some interesting e-mail these days.

That’s because the local real estate broker is taking the community’s pulse on the jump in parking rates that’s coming to Aspen’s downtown core in June.

He has run a series of ads eliciting comments on the planned rate hike and said he will present his findings to the City Council.

So far, said Wagar, the responses have been all over the board.

The city plans to retrofit its downtown parking meters this spring so they will accept credit cards, making it easier for visitors who aren’t armed with a pocketful of quarters to pay. The meters will also be reprogrammed so a motorist can pay to park for up to four hours instead of the current two.

But with the changes, the rates will also go up. The current rate of $1 per hour with a 2-hour maximum will increase to $1 for the first hour, $2 for the second and third hours, and $3 for the fourth hour.

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The changeover is scheduled to begin June 1.

One frequent response to Wagar’s straw poll so far is surprise. Though the rate hikes were well publicized in local papers, many local residents apparently aren’t aware they’re coming, he said.

“I know they had public meetings . for some reason the majority of people I talk to had no idea,” he said. “Why that is . I’m amazed,” he said.

Wagar’s advertisements question why the city is raising rates when Aspen is struggling economically. He said the move strikes him as yet one more deterrent to attracting visitors and to doing business in Aspen.

“It will be just one more way Aspen is not visitor friendly,” he said.

The City Council approved the rate changes in order to raise revenue for its in-town bus service, which is facing a funding shortfall due to decreased sales tax revenues.

Even with the rate hikes, the city is planning to cut its late-night and early morning bus service in the off-season. Without increased parking fees, more severe cutbacks in bus service would be necessary, according to city officials.

The irony, Wagar said, is Aspen won’t have as many bus riders if businesses suffer from the jump in parking fees and cut back on employees.

He is receiving e-mail and faxes from both supporters and detractors of the rate hikes.

Opposition, he said, is coming mainly from merchants who are already suffering from a struggling economy.

Others, though, apparently see an advantage if the rates discourage people from parking downtown.

“A lot of people think, hey that’s great. I’ll be able to find a spot at lunchtime,” he said.

Wagar said he has probably received 30 to 40 responses via e-mail or fax and has talked to another 30 to 40 people who intend to send him their views in writing.

For those who want to express an opinion, Wagar can be reached via e-mail at rich@9203131.com or faxed at 920-1010.

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