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Lum: Startling parking policy

Su Lum
Slumming

There’s an Aspen parking law in effect that you may not know about — I know I didn’t. It should be called the “Unwelcome to Aspen” law.

On June 3, my daughter Hillery came over from Leadville, and the two of us attended the groundbreaking of the new Aspen Community School, where my daughter Skye is the director and just about killed herself working to raise the millions of dollars to make it happen.

It took maybe 10 minutes to get me and my oxygen tanks into Hillery’s car — Hillery always wants plenty of oxygen, having witnessed several scary incidents when I ran out.

We spent a lovely couple of hours at the school, where everybody is so friendly and helpful it seems like you’re on a different planet. Then Hillery drove me home and unloaded me and all the unused oxygen, stopping for maybe 15 minutes before rushing back to man her store, Western Hardware, in Leadville.

Seconds after she left, she was back, totally undone because she had gotten a parking ticket.

Let me explain that I live on a section of Cooper Avenue where there is a two-hour parking limit. She had parked, both times, in a perfectly legal space, for a total time span of under a half hour.

Hillery called the authorities and was told that the reason she got the ticket was that she had parked two separate times in the same zone, and you’re allowed to park only once in any zone except your own. Did you know that?

Aspen is divided up into five different zones. Zone D is the west end of town, and Zone C, where I live, is in the east end. Many locals and all tourists don’t even know about these zones.

The rationale behind this policy is to stop the blatant scofflaws (translation: enterprising worker bees trying to find a place to park without paying a hunk of their wages) from doing the “two-hour shuffle” by running out and moving their cars 2 feet when their two hours were up. Now they can no longer move within the zone or, indeed, even return to the zone at all until the next day. Neither can our visitors.

I went over to the Parking Department to talk with Director Tim Ware about the philosophy of the policy. My first complaint was that the parking signs were misleading if not downright untrue, and I was a bit chastened when he pulled out one of the parking signs and pointed out that, under “two-hour parking,” it said “one visit per day.”

I didn’t think that a hapless tourist (or a hapless local) would understand what “one visit per day” meant and felt especially strongly that everyone — tourist or local — should be allowed their free two hours and that the technology that knows when and where you parked also should be able to figure out when your time is truly up.

When I got home, I went outside to write down the exact words of the big sign in front of my house, and lo, get what it said: “Residential parking zone. 2 hour parking 8am-6pm Monday-Friday unless otherwise posted.”

The next morning, I made a run around town, finding several (big) “one visit per day” signs near the core and quite a few that were like the sign at my house, giving no hint. In the west end of town, all the signs were modest, small white ones saying merely “2-hour parking, Monday-Friday.”

Ware asked me what I’d do to solve the “problem.” I question the premise of the enormity of the problem, but I definitely think that no tickets should be issued where the signs don’t reflect the grim reality of the driver’s options.

If they keep the confusing “one visit per day” wording, underline the phrase with black duct tape (save the cost of reprinting) to alert drivers that something weird is up.

Ware said that Hillery had been caught in an unfortunate loophole in the law, that this happens very rarely and when complaints are received the fees are waived. I think there is something intrinsically wrong with a law that is enforced randomly or — worse — only to a targeted group.

Su Lum is a longtime local who treasures her handicapped placard above all else. Her column appears every Wednesday in The Aspen Times. Reach her at su@rof.net.


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