Parking stalled in Breckenridge |

Parking stalled in Breckenridge

Summit Daily/Mark Fox

Breckenridge is notorious for its peak season congestion and parking shortages, when crowds pack the tiny town on their way to the shops or the slopes.

With in-town shoppers and diners, skiers and locals all looking for prime spots very often at the same times of the day and year, Breckenridge’s parking challenges ultimately boil down to one persistent problem.

“At peak times, everybody wants to be in a certain place,” Breckenridge Town Councilwoman Jennifer McAtamney said.

McAtamney said many of the less popular lots in town are often under utilized, even as lots closer to the gondola and downtown overflow.

For skiers, the parking shortages could get worse as the Town of Breckenridge prepares to utilize much of a free satellite parking lot for town projects. The satellite lot north of town provides parking for more than 1,000 skier vehicles on some peak weekends, but plans to develop that land will cut the available parking there by more than half.

The town owns the land where much of the satellite lot is located, but has allowed Breckenridge Ski Resort to use it for free skier parking while the property is vacant.

A master plan for possible future development of the gondola lot includes conceptual plans for two parking structures in the area – one that would provide 500 new parking paces and another that would offer 700 new spaces. The structures might compensate for the spaces lost when the satellite lot is developed, but Breckenridge town spokeswoman Kim DiLallo said it could be some time before they are actually constructed.

The ski resort is required by an agreement with the town to provide at least 2,500 parking spaces for skiers.

“Because of our current parking agreement with the town, as we discuss any potential development of the gondola lots, we will have to work with the town on where we will have to replace that parking,” Vail Resorts spokeswoman Kristin Williams said in an e-mail.

The resort has entered into early discussions with the town regarding the gondola lot developments, “but only at a very conceptual level,” Williams said.

In downtown Breckenridge, the parking challenges are also growing, as an increase in employee parking permit prices may be causing people working in town to use the three-hour parking along Main Street, generally meant for patrons.

Breckenridge police and council members suspect many employees are opting to park on the street, moving their cars to different places every three hours rather than paying for a permit for the employee lots located on the outskirts of town.

The cost of an employee parking permit was raised from $25 to $50.

“(We were) hoping that some of that increase would encourage people to consider public transit,” Police Chief Rick Holman said. “There’s speculation at this time whether more people are just abusing the system and trying to move their car every three hours.”

In the past, Breckenridge has come close to installing a pay-to-park system on Main Street to discourage what some council members call the “shuffle” practice, but the council hesitated because of the inconvenience it would pose to locals shopping downtown.

The town and the ski resort are not without short-term solutions to the parking challenges both downtown and in the skier lots.

For the last two years, the resort has offered a car-pooling incentive program, allowing cars with multiple passengers to park for free in the gondola lot. Resort representatives said the program has gotten a positive response from skiers.

The town council, under the leadership of Mayor Warner, continues to encourage visitors and guests to leave their cars at home and walk, bike and ride public transit instead.

“We really would like people when they come and visit and people who live here, to encourage them to use alternative forms of transportation,” McAtamney said.

The council has put in bike lanes, added bike parking and is planning to put in a new sidewalk along airport road to encourage multi-modal travel, but members do not seem to have ruled out the option of paid parking on Main Street.

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