‘Parking’ up the wrong tree
Unintended consequences are a fascinating thing.I predict some amusing ones will result from Aspen’s decision to extend paid parking outward from the downtown core.According to the stats, 750 to 1,000 cars a day are being moved every two hours in the blocks surrounding the core, as a combination of locals and commuters from downvalley shuffle their cars around in a cat-and-mouse game with the city’s Parking Department. The residential streets are Aspen’s park-and-drive lot. You can park there free, all day, so long as you successfully move your vehicle often enough to thwart the enforcement officers who spend their days chalking tires and writing tickets.I used to be a player, off and on, and a pretty good one. I’ll bet I got fewer than a half-dozen parking tickets in a decade of local residency. Now that I’ve moved to the midvalley and ride the bus, I’ve got a comfortable seat from which to watch this summer’s ensuing antics, since it’s not going to affect me personally. I can’t wait.Here’s what I think will happen: Nothing. Aspen is barking up the wrong tree if it thinks this is going to get anybody to leave theirs car in the driveway. Even if they have to pay to park, they’ll drive. I know an Aspenite who lives across the street from the Hunter Creek bus stop, but she drives to work every day (the bus is too inconvenient).I suspect virtually everyone who drives now and does the two-hour shuffle will continue to do so. Only now, they’ll have to walk a lot farther into the hinterlands to reach the free zone, which means more time spent away from their desks. The fallout from Aspen’s extension of paid parking is likely to be more phone calls that go unanswered. Productivity will take a dip, but traffic counts won’t. And this is a good thing, frankly. If everyone living downvalley who currently drives suddenly started taking mass transit, buses that are already packed would have people hanging out the windows. We’d have to buy more buses and hire more drivers, then we’d have to find the money to pay for them, and so on. Unintended consequences.But pushing the free parking farther away from downtown will probably have some beneficial effects. People will get more exercise walking back and forth to their cars, for one thing. I’m pretty sure it’s the only regular exercise that some people I know get now.The Aspen Times is the perfect microcosm from which to observe this coming social experiment. We’re perched right on the edge of the core, between the streets that already have metered parking and the West End residential zone with its two-hour free parking. Our staff includes some dedicated two-hour shufflers.I foresee unprecedented strategizing here at the Times – one individual armed with keys moving everybody’s vehicle or pooling cash to pay for one individual to park close to the office and drive everyone else out to the far-flung corners of the West End so they can shuffle their cars.I can tell you this: No one who drives to The Aspen Times now is going to stop. For one thing, most of them bring a dog to work, and you can’t bring a dog on the bus.If Aspen wants to get serious about reducing congestion, maybe it needs to ban dogs.Talk about barking up the wrong tree …Janet Urquhart’s e-mail address is email@example.com
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