Vehicles are parked Thursday afternoon along 11th and Yampa streets downtown. A panel of experts discussed paid parking Thursday at the Economic Summit held at the Steamboat Grand Resort Hotel.

Photo by Matt Stensland

Vehicles are parked Thursday afternoon along 11th and Yampa streets downtown. A panel of experts discussed paid parking Thursday at the Economic Summit held at the Steamboat Grand Resort Hotel.

Vail, Breckenridge, Aspen leaders share parking strategies


— Participants at the Economic Summit gained some insight into the parking conundrum in other resort towns Thursday.

Vail, Breckenridge and Aspen officials explained how their ski towns handled a glut of cars. Methods included parking garages, time limits, park-and-rides and meters.

"We've had some dismal failures, and I'm sure we're going to have some dismal failures in the future," Vail Transportation Manager Mike Rose said.

Vail was one of the first towns to charge for parking, Rose said. The town does have some free parking and charges employees, contractors and residents less for paid lots.

"The other thing that we have done over the years is we've developed a parking task force," Rose said. "There was a time when staff made proposals to council, but it just got out of hand."

Breckenridge officials have been loath to charge for parking, Assistant Public Works Director Tom Daugherty said. The city does have some paid lots, however, as does the ski area.

"Our council's also real concerned about sustainability," Daugherty said. "We're trying to get people out of their cars and into our public transit system. We're grappling with that internally now."

When parking in Breckenridge's historic area became a major issue, Daugherty said the town created a parking district with three-hour time limits. Concerns that arose were enforcement and fairness to those who live in the area, he said.

The town had to decide "how big and bad do we want to be to those visitors who are parking and having lunch and happen to stay longer than three hours," Daugherty said. Enforcement is a bit light, he said. The town also created a permit system. Workers and residents can display permits and park in those spots all day if they're open.

The city of Aspen isn't as laid-back, Parking Director Tim Ware said. In the early '90s, the city found that 98 percent of its parking spaces were occupied on a busy day.

"We literally had people hovering, waiting for spots," he said.

Aspen put in paid parking and a residential permit program. Drivers can pay at 60 stations across town. The cost is significant, Ware said: $2 for the first hour, $2 for the second, $3 for the third and $4 for the fourth.

"People were less than happy, by any means," Ware said.

Aspen also has two-hour parking zones. Those create an issue because workers and others shuffle their cars from one spot to another every two hours, Ware said.

To curb that, the city is planning a license plate recognition system. A vehicle with a camera will patrol and check plates. Those vehicles, after their two hours, are not allowed to park in that area for 12 hours, he said.

Those attending the panel listened carefully. Each city official said that his town was in a pretty good place related to parking issues but said those issues are ongoing.

Ware said his government has taken a beating.

"It's amazing how simple, little parking things can turn people into lunatics," he said. The Aspen City Council had to be aggressive, he said. They also were bold, however, which was necessary to get the public to buy in to dramatic parking changes.

"With all the complaining, all the screaming, all the moaning, we put it on a ballot to see if we should keep it in place," Ware said of the parking system. "They were 3-1 for it."


steamvent 8 years, 11 months ago

How many times have we heard each other say, "We're not Aspen and don't want to be." Aspen can charge stupid parking rates because people expect to pay stupid prices in Aspen. Having just returned from a significant driving trip up the west coast, we experienced many communities that have made free parking work through commitment to dealing with the issue rather than just putting it back on the local public with ugly parking meters, pay stations and roving gestapo. Parking has been ignored for too long here while developers have been able to buy off their requirements on the cheap. To now consider making the local public pay for that inept planning is pretty distasteful.


housepoor 8 years, 11 months ago

Pay or not downtown needs a parking structure at either end of town


ColoradoNative 8 years, 11 months ago

Oh I don't know our highway makes a great parking lot! This is steamboat! We love outdoor adventure right? What's more exciting than stepping out of your car onto a freeway and running for your life!


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