New proposed parking program in Snowmass centered on managing access

A car parks in the numbered lots off of Carriage Way on Aug. 11, 2020. (Maddie Vincent/Snowmass Sun).
Maddie Vincent/Snowmass Sun

Every fall, town staff brings the coming season’s paid winter parking program plan to Town Council for review and approval.

Some years there are more changes and tweaks than others, but generally the concept remains the same: use a paid, digital permit and enforcement system to help manage access to day-use parking and control traffic volume in the core of the village.

But this year, although the key concept remains the same, town staff brought the annual parking program discussion and agreement to council earlier than usual with some bigger changes — instead of a seasonal plan, staff drafted a year-round plan with a paid summer parking program, year-round permit options and annual permit price increases over the next three years.

“We bring the winter parking agreement to council every year. What’s new this year is we tried to incorporate a summer parking program and a change in pricing,” said David Peckler, town transportation director. “We wanted to give the community a heads up on what a year-round permit system would be, what it would look like.”

The idea of a paid summer parking program for the core areas of Snowmass Village isn’t new. For at least the past three years, Peckler said town officials have mulled over the idea of a summer plan similar to what’s in place for winter, as the number of summer guests in Snowmass continues to grow along with the popularity of ongoing events like the free Thursday night concert series (canceled this year due to the COVID-19 crisis).

Peckler explained that the industry standard is that when 85% of a parking area’s spaces are filled, the area is considered full. During a typical summer Thursday night in Snowmass, he said the numbered lot spaces are around 65% to 85% filled, which doesn’t leave “a lot of room for elasticity for events.”

“The goal of the whole program is to manage the resource so that there’s access to parking in the core of the community,” Peckler said.

As proposed to Town Council on Aug. 3, the drafted three-year parking plan — which Peckler said was largely approved by town lodging stakeholders and parking plan partners Aspen Skiing Co., Snowmass Mountain Lodging and Base Village Metropolitan District No. 1 — includes a paid summer program for the core of the village much like the one in place for winter. Paid summer parking would be enforced daily from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m., June 12 through Sept. 26, according to town documents.

The summer plan also proposes the addition of Village Shuttle service from the Rodeo Lot to the community core, helping to control overuse of parking in the numbered lots during special events, and of both a full-time, year-round employee and a summer full-time employee to help execute enforcement.

To bring these additional employees on, Peckler explained, town staff also proposed parking permit price increases starting this winter, along with continued price increases through 2023.

For example, as proposed, a seasonal permit for a resident’s first vehicle would jump from $60 last winter to $80 this winter, and there would be a yearly one-vehicle permit option of $140. Employee seasonal permits would jump from $50 to $80, as previously reported.

Revenues from the town’s parking permit systems goes into the general fund, helping to support the various departments that contribute to parking enforcement, accessibility, traffic control and other related operational expenses, Peckler said. Resident, employee and gold/senior permit prices haven’t been raised since 2014, and guest permit prices haven’t been raised since 2017.

“Again, the goal is to manage access. We’re not a for-profit entity, we’re here to manage access and to at least break even with the cost to administer that,” Peckler said.

Peckler went on to say that the “timing of the pandemic made it difficult to propose (this plan) to the community,” and that if the COVID-19 crisis continues into summer 2021 with restricted gathering sizes the proposed paid summer parking plan would not be put in place.

However, Peckler also said because a summer plan and permit price increases have been discussed for so many years and as the village continues to become an increasingly popular summer destination, town staff felt it was important to bring a draft three-year plan to council and give the community a heads up on what core town parking in the future may look like.

Town staff is working to bring a few versions of the annual parking plan back to council in the coming weeks for continued review, including a plan that meets the historical status quo and others that include 5% to 10% increases to permit prices.