Breck considers pay parking in town | SummitDaily.com
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Breck considers pay parking in town

BRECKENRIDGE – Breckenridge town officials aren’t ready to implement a town-wide paid parking program yet, but they acknowledged Friday that such a program likely will become reality some day.

Over the past several years, the town council has discussed implementing some kind of paid-parking program in town to discourage employees from taking prime on-street spots merchants would like reserved for shoppers.

It’s worked for Aspen, according to Tim Ware, that town’s parking director, who spoke at a town retreat Friday.



Five years ago, a typical winter day in Aspen meant 98 percent of its downtown, on-street parking spots were filled – and 70 percent of those cars were owned by employees. Visitors said they would get so frustrated looking for spots, they’d often leave.

“Who knows how many people you lose because they can’t find a place to park?” Ware said. “The whole goal was to free up parking and increase turnover.”



Additionally, a 350-space, free parking garage 2 miles out of town was usually empty, even though bus shuttles run between it and town.

The Environmental Protection Agency also was threatening to fine the city because of its high air pollution levels, some of which the agency blamed on people cruising along Aspen’s streets looking for parking spots.

So town leaders implemented a paid-parking system throughout the entire town. It involved tokens, Smart Cards, in-car meters, parking zones and increased enforcement.

And it resulted in revolt.

Opponents organized a “honk-in,” with cars, trucks and semis circling city hall. They built a cardboard pay station and burned it in effigy. The mayor bravely took to the streets and handed out CDs with the tune “Honky-Tonk Woman” on it to drivers with the loudest car horns.

“Everyone was complaining,” Ware said.

But five months later the town took a poll, and in a 3-to-1 ratio residents said they wanted the town to keep the program in place. Protesters apologized to the town – and took Ware’s staff to breakfast.

It wasn’t easy to implement,

Ware admitted.

It took three years and involved soliciting public input for a year, educating people about the program and providing alternative modes of transportation, particularly for the 11,000 or so people who drive from down-valley towns to work in Aspen.

The town now has 60 pay stations on its city blocks and has rented 10,000 in-car meters, pre-pay parking devices that hang from a car’s review mirror. Aspen also has distributed Smart Cards to the town’s registered voters and sells day tickets at local grocery stores. People who have Smart Cards purchase meter time at city hall, then spend it in parking stations in town. Last year, the town made it possible to use credit cards at the pay stations, as well.

To prevent people from encroaching into residential neighborhoods to avoid paying to park, Ware divided the town’s residential neighborhoods into four zones. Residents there get a free parking permit for each vehicle registered in the town and can park in their zone for free. Those who drive an electric car to town also can park for free.

Incentives are available for people who carpool to town and for those who are staying at lodges and hotels in town. The town’s parking staff also forgives the first parking ticket drivers receive. And if people who used public transportation to get to town have an emergency at home, town officials will find them a free way home.

In the past five years, bus ridership has increased 35 percent, only 65 percent of parking spots in town are occupied at any given time – and sales tax revenues have increased 25 percent.

“People will do the right things,” Ware said. “They just need a little push sometimes.”

The program has not only freed up parking spaces in town and given people the impression that the streets are safer (since cars are no longer cruising for spaces) but has generated enough revenue to make the program self-sufficient.

Ware has seen failures in the system, as well. The town spent $1 million to build a Park and Ride lot two miles out of town, and only 20 or so cars park there each day.

“That failed miserably,” he said. “People who are driving their car that far aren’t going to get out for the last two miles.”

He reminded Breckenridge officials that what has worked for Aspen might not work in Summit County.

But the timing is right, Town Manager Tim Gagen noted. The town is working with the Colorado Department of Transportation to reroute Highway 9 onto Park Avenue and build a transit center.

Mayor Sam Mamula, however, was hesitant about implementing a pay parking program immediately.

“Sometimes I think we need to be in the kind of straits Aspen was – you have to be desperate,” he said. “I don’t think we’re that desperate.”

Jane Stebbins can be reached at (970) 668-3998 ext. 228 or jstebbins@summitdaily.com.


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