Wind Sprints: Parking in Breckenridge an existential crisis (editor’s column)
February 26, 2017
Easily available parking — it's hard to get me out of the house without it. Whether it's to a restaurant, a concert or my daughter's dance recital, the idea of circling around for a parking spot triggers sweaty palms and something not unlike the five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and finally acceptance ("OK, you drive then").
I grew up in Dallas and lived in Austin, both traffic-choked urban hives, before moving to the Colorado High Country four years ago. I thought I was getting away from the car-centric jungles that so aggravated my parking-transit stress disorder, and in many ways I have (it's a short walk to my kids' school in the morning, and just a 1.5-mile commute to work), but we Summit County locals are no strangers to snarled roads, particularly when it comes to Interstate 70 and downtown Breckenridge.
My auto anxiety recently flared up when my Subaru Outback proved too pricey to repair and I found myself in the unexpected position of having to buy a new vehicle. If the search for a parking spot stressed me out before, a car payment was on a new level of despair. I panicked, I postponed the inevitable, I drove my wife crazy. I declared "We're not buying a car. I'm going to walk and bike everywhere." This plan did not go over well. I'm now the owner of a lightly used, pearl-white Toyota Highlander. It's a sweet ride, but the existential struggle continues.
Parking and transportation isn't just an ongoing source of tension for little old, neurotic me. The town of Breckenridge and Vail Resorts have publicly clashed over how to address the problem. Clearly, there has been a communication breakdown that's only just starting to mend itself. That's why the Summit Daily is hosting a forum at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 28, at the Colorado Mountain College auditorium in Breck. We want to clear the air by bringing together town and resort officials, as well as concerned citizens. We want you to help us better understand the problem and the variety of solutions that might ease traffic congestion in the state's most popular ski destination.
Breckenridge is in danger of getting stuck in the classic, Yogi Berra-coined conundrum: "Nobody goes there anymore, it's too crowded." Popularity can have diminishing returns over time. Although the town's economic success is hitched to a positive experience for visitors, officials have wisely recognized that locals have needs, too.
On the authority of a major study, the town is attacking the problem from every angle: more roundabouts, a Main Street trolley, paid parking, a fleet of Zipcars and improved walkability. But the garage-sized gorilla in the room has been a parking structure. The resort wants it on the F-lot, the town has had other notions.
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A parking garage isn't cheap — the unit price for a single parking space can range from $35,000 to $100,000 — and its effectiveness in reducing congestion is unclear. But is the town obligated to build one since voters passed lift-ticket tax on the resort that generates $3.5 million a year to address transit needs? I don't know the answer to that question, which is why we need your help. Join us this Tuesday and have your voice heard. And don't worry, the parking lot at CMC is huge.
Ben Trollinger is the managing editor of the Summit Daily News. Contact him at 970-668-4618 or at email@example.com.