‘Pay by plate’ system coming soon to Aspen’s parking program

Paid parking to be reinstated in residential zones on May 3; no more paper receipts

As the city of Aspen resumes paid parking next month in the 3,000 spaces available in residential zones, it is taking the hassle out of paying for it or obtaining a permit.

Residential parking will be $8 a day beginning May 3 after being free since March 2020 when the pandemic hit.

When that resumes, the city’s parking department will go live with its new “pay by plate” system, which allows people to use their license plate when they purchase time to park.

The new technology eliminates having to get a paper receipt and walk back to the vehicle to place on the dashboard.

Instead, people will use the keyboard on the pay station to enter their license plate number.

“There are a couple of advantages,” said Mitch Osur, the city’s director of parking and downtown services. “Number one is we’re no longer going to waste paper with the receipts coming out of the machine, and you’re not going to have to walk back to the meter.”

Parking enforcement officers can enter people’s license plates into their app and determine the payment status on a vehicle.

For those who can’t remember what their license plate number is, the city next week will be distributing plastic key chains that will have an area to write down that information.

The change does not affect those who already pay for parking via phone or the “way to park” system.

Pay by plate does not allow for extending time at the meters. People can purchase a new session and continue to stay in the same spot as long as the four-hour limit is followed in the downtown core.

Using one of the mobile payment options is the easiest and most efficient way to pay for parking, as customers can extend their time and there is no reason to go to the meters, Osur said.

Also on May 3, residential permits will be issued only online, so there will be no more hang tags required as license plates will be put in the system and matched up against the vehicle.

Currently, residents are allotted two free residential permits, one paid and a free guest permit.

“It’s better for the environment, it’s certainly more efficient from an enforcement point of view and we also think that it’s easier for customers because they are not losing guest permits and having to get a second one,” Osur said.

The changes to the parking program are at no additional cost as the technology is part of the contract the city has with the vendor, according to Osur.

Going back to paid residential parking in May is strategic in a way, as it’s offseason and there are fewer people coming into town, he added.

For the first few weeks, officers will be issuing warnings instead of tickets to allow people to adjust to the change back to paid parking.

“People haven’t paid for 16 months in a residential zone, and they aren’t going to all of a sudden start paying on May 3,” Osur said. “So, we are not going to be super aggressive out there, but by June 1 we need to get into the game because we are going to have the biggest summer we’ve ever had, everything points to that.”

He pointed out that less than 15% of the city’s parking revenue comes from tickets.

“There is no pressure from the City Council or the city manager’s office to write tickets,” Osur said. “We get plenty of money from people doing the right thing.”

The majority of the parking revenue goes toward paying for in-town transit, like the Galena Street and Crosstown shuttles, or bus routes that feed the Hunter Creek and Castle and Maroon valley areas of Aspen.