Torpedo concept of parking fee on Sundays
October 7, 2011
The idea of charging for Sunday parking floated to the top of Monday’s Aspen City Council discussion on the 2012 budget. We’re not sure whether the concept is under serious consideration or merely a trial balloon, but whatever the case, we hope either the community or the council shoots it down.
The proposal, which would generate an estimated $100,000 annually, is not being pushed by any particular department or city official. Rather, it was born of a recent committee discussion on pricing that included other revenue-generating ideas. The general thought went like this: Other ski towns in Colorado are charging motorists to park on Sundays, why not Aspen?
From there, the city manager’s office determined that the idea made sense. And the revenue would be helpful: Parking fees are set up to help pay the city’s share of in-town transportation systems operated by the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority, such as the Crosstown Shuttle. That arrangement indirectly assists other programs that depend on other revenue sources.
Consequently, the estimated revenue from Sunday parking fees was included in the city’s 2012 budget proposal even though it had yet to be given the council’s blessing. No matter, since council members will spend much of the next two months tweaking the budget until it is to their liking. The community will get the opportunity to weigh in on the idea during upcoming public hearings on the budget; there’s no doubt that certain residents will make their opinions known about the parking fees and other budget items they don’t favor.
The council wisely scheduled a work session for later this month to talk about parking fees and other transportation issues. Public discourse on any subject is usually healthy and so we don’t object to further study and debate on the matter. Rather than assuming that Sundays will generate about the same amount of money as Saturdays, more research should be conducted not only on costs versus benefits but also on what other Colorado ski towns have derived from charging parkers on Sundays.
Also, it would only be fair to compare the cities that are similar to Aspen and don’t rely on interstate travelers from major metro areas. As one councilman said, Sundays tend to be “turnaround” days for visitors who are flying or driving in or out of town, and most of the people driving into the city are locals or downvalley residents – many of whom are partially persuaded by the lure of free parking.
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In the big picture, we hope city leaders ultimately reject the Sunday parking-fee plan. Free parking on Sunday is a perk that locals in the community want and need. There is a lot of intrinsic value in providing a free parking day that can’t be measured against other factors.
When special holidays from paying to park are announced – such as the Fridays last June – a small smile can be found on the faces of many of Aspen’s worker-bees. It means they can save $6 or $12 or even $18 and put that money toward more important items like food or rent or utilities. It means they won’t be made to feel like secondary citizens in their own community. It means they won’t have to worry about the prospect of a ticket and an expensive fine if they are a few minutes late in getting back to their vehicle after conducting business or seeking pleasure.
Please, city of Aspen, don’t penalize the ones who are struggling the most while working and living in one of the most expensive communities in America.