The Steamboat Springs City Council had no objections to the recommendations made by the downtown parking focus groups.
In a unanimous vote, the council agreed to take a three-prong approach to improving parking in the downtown area. The council voted to:
n Reduce the number of eight-hour parking spaces and convert them to four-hour, two-hour and 15-minute spaces
n Have year-round parking enforcement in the downtown area
n Add a stoplight and a bus stop at 11th Street and Lincoln Avenue
Although council members asked questions about the recommendations at Tuesday's meeting, they did not have any objections to the proposal.
"I think this is a wonderful first step," Councilwoman Kathy Connell said.
Since the summer, the parking focus group has been studying downtown parking problems. The group is composed of members from Main Street Steamboat, city officials and original members of the parking committee.
One of the major problems the parking focus group identified is employees and business owners using parking spaces intended for customers.
The focus group looked at a national study that showed that for every prime parking spot an employee occupies, downtown merchants could lose between $150 and $300. The focus group calculated that, at 240 days with a loss of $150 a day and 1,800 spaces used as employee parking, the downtown merchants could be facing a $65 million loss in revenue a year.
"Customers must have priority for parking in the downtown," parking committee member Cami Bunn said during Tuesday night's presentation. "Employees must be willing to walk a short distance or use alternative transportation."
To remedy the problem, the group proposed 68 spaces, mostly along Yampa Street, to be taken out of eight-hour or longer parking. Of those converted spaces, 34 will be used as two-hour parking, 19 will be turned into four-hour parking, 10 will be turned into 15-minute parking along Third Street near the U.S. Post Office, and five will be used as emergency vehicle parking spots.
City Transportation Director George Krawzoff said that even with the conversion, there would be enough parking for downtown employees, though they might have to walk farther, use the Howelsen Hill parking lot or take the bus from the Stock Bridge Transit Center.
In the future, Bunn said they hope to convert more eight-hour parking into two-hour parking and have shuttles transport employees from parking areas to the downtown.
"This is not a radical change. Eventually, most or all of the downtown public parking will need to be two-hour," Bunn said.
The council also agreed to have parking enforcement year round. Right now, a parking enforcement officer is used six months of the year, which the parking committee thought sends a confusing message to residents.
The council agreed to a full-time officer, whose salary would be $45,000, including benefits. Right now, the city spends $17,000 on a winter and summer parking attendant.
Councilwoman Susan Del--linger recommended -- and City Council approved -- a 30-day grace period from when parking changes go into effect to when ticketing begins.
The council also discussed the need for a traffic light at 11th Street and Lincoln Avenue and who would pay for it.
The Colorado Department of Transportation had proposed putting in a traffic light at 11th Street and taking one out at Eighth Street. Bunn said the parking committee only would support the 11th Street traffic if it meant keeping the Eighth Street traffic light.
An 11th Street traffic light would allow buses to stop at the odd-numbered streets and provide an easier way for people to cross the street.
"The light was a much safer way than any other way of getting pedestrians across Lincoln Avenue," City Manager Paul Hughes said.
Council President Paul Strong, who has an office near the intersection, said that during rush hour, it is almost impossible to cross the street.
Councilwoman Nancy Kramer, who worked with the parking committee, said a traffic light would cost between $160,000 and $180,000, but was not the first priority on CDOT's list of improvements. It could be six years before one goes up, she said.
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