Torre opposes expansion of paid parking |

Torre opposes expansion of paid parking

John Colson

At least one Aspen City Council member opposes a proposal to expand paid parking into the residential neighborhoods surrounding the city’s commercial core, despite a news story to the contrary.”I voted against that,” Councilman Torre said after reading a story in The Aspen Times about the proposal.Mayor Helen Klanderud, in an interview about the proposal last week, said the entire council had given the nod to the concept during a work session.The city’s transportation department pushed the idea recently to decrease traffic and parking congestion in town and encourage more commuting workers to use Roaring Fork Transportation Authority buses.Under the plan, paid parking would expand by a three-block radius from its current boundary at the edge of Aspen’s central shopping district. The areas under consideration now have a two-hour free parking time limit except for residents with permits, hybrid cars bearing special permits and other exemptions.The city estimates it would cost approximately $750,000 to buy 75 new parking meters, as well as signs for the affected blocks. The revenues from the expansion, according to the memo, could amount to $260,000 per year.Torre, in a telephone call Tuesday, said he did not endorse the idea and pledged, “I’m not going to vote for it when it comes up before council” during a regular meeting.One council member, Rachel Richards, was not at the work session, so she did not indicate either support of or opposition to the proposal.”I do think it’s worth looking at,” Richards said Tuesday. She noted that when pay parking went into effect in the mid-1990s, the residential neighborhoods surrounding the commercial core were already experiencing parking problems from workers from nearby businesses filling up all the available parking spaces.”We’re getting into a buildup of that same sort of thing happening again,” she said, referring to city estimates that as many as 750 to 1,000 cars are parked in the neighborhoods around the core and are moved every two hours to avoid parking tickets.”It has begun having an impact on those permanent residents in those neighborhoods” who have difficulty parking in front of their homes, she said.Richards said she also is hoping to learn whether RFTA can handle the added ridership “if even a quarter of those cars are no longer coming to town” and their owners climb on a bus.”It’s important to me that this [proposal] be linked to increased service,” she added. Richards said she has been told the paid-parking expansion would not go into effect until the city has installed a dedicated bus lane along Main Street, which is supposed to happen this summer.In the past, efforts to get more people to ride buses haven’t been very successful because buses sit stranded in rush hour traffic every morning and afternoon.”I can’t imagine trying to push more people onto RFTA without first finding a way to get the buses out of town in a timely fashion,” she said.The proposed paid-parking expansion will get a second hearing before the City Council at a Feb. 28 work session at City Hall.John Colson’s e-mail address is