Cars drive down Lincoln Avenue in downtown Steamboat Springs on Thursday afternoon. The city is looking into adding paid parking downtown for the first time.

Photo by Scott Franz

Cars drive down Lincoln Avenue in downtown Steamboat Springs on Thursday afternoon. The city is looking into adding paid parking downtown for the first time.

City of Steamboat Springs considering paid parking for downtown


— One of Steamboat Springs' most enduring and passionate issues is slated to be back in the spotlight soon.

The city is looking into some alternative forms of parking management for downtown, including the implementation of paid parking.

Reader poll

What do you think is the solution for parking in downtown Steamboat?

  • I support having to pay for parking through meters and kiosks 18%
  • There should be more public parking lots 22%
  • Time limits for parking in front of stores should be enforced 9%
  • Keep it free because having to pay for parking will hurt downtown business 52%

257 total votes.

The research comes after many downtown stakeholders and some members of the Steamboat Springs City Council have said it's time to solve a parking problem they fear will only get worse when more visitors come to town.

“Downtown is changing. It's talking about revitalization and wanting to get more people down there, and I think we need to do an analysis of what parking we have and then look at the possibility of paid parking,” City Council member Walter Magill said Thursday.

City Manager Deb Hinsvark said the city hopes to have some proposals ready for the City Council to consider as soon as the spring.

“We have lots of opportunity here for improving our entire parking function with paid parking,” Hinsvark said. “It can be an impediment to doing business when you have free parking.”

While she said paid parking appears to be the best solution at this point, all options will be considered by city staff in the coming weeks.

With a new parking system, the city will look to solve multiple problems.

One of the most pressing is that many prime storefront parking spaces on Lincoln Avenue continue to be taken by local employees.

The city has grappled with this problem since it was confirmed by a parking study more than a decade ago, and efforts so far have focused on educating the businesses about the value of the prime parking spaces.

City staff also will work to pre-empt any parking issues with the upcoming move of the Mainstreet Farmers Market to Yampa Street.

The event now will be primarily staged in the parking lot at Yampa and Seventh streets, and the city will have to find a way to ensure they won't have to tow any cars that are left overnight in that parking lot, which is near several bars and taverns.

For many years, the specter of paid parking has loomed over Steamboat Springs.

The idea gets brought up almost every year, is met by a mix of reactions and then usually dies down.

But the research being done by city staff into paid parking is perhaps one of the most substantial steps toward a new form of parking management yet.

“With the downturn in the economy, there weren't as many people here, not as many people were shopping, and there wasn't as much demand for parking,” Mainstreet Steamboat Springs Manager Tracy Barnett said. “But as we move forward and we get busier again, we're already seeing in the evenings you can't find a parking place to go to a restaurant.”

Barnett said the general public appears to be more accepting of paid parking than they have been in previous years.

Other downtown merchants have said at recent meetings that visitors even expect it.

The latest push to reform Steamboat's parking system stems from a report from the Urban Land Institute that called Steamboat's parking system "antiquated."

In Colorado, Steamboat's completely free downtown parking system appears to be unique for a mountain resort community.

Cities such as Aspen, Breckenridge and Telluride have parking meters and kiosks in downtown lots.

Many resort communities made the plunge more than a decade ago.

In Steamboat, some previous proposals to add paid parking have been met by fierce opposition by some downtown merchants who feared it would hurt business, not improve it.

Magill said paid parking is only one part of a broader discussion about fixing downtown parking.

“If there's a whole lot of pushback from the merchants, I don't want to shove it down their throats,” he said. “However, when I go to other Colorado mountain towns, they have it.”

What do you think? Vote in our poll or leave a comment below.

To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210, email or follow him on Twitter @ScottFranz10

Join the Yampa Valley VIP email club

Yampa Valley VIP


jerry carlton 3 years, 2 months ago

Another good step towards killing downtown for locals shopping there.


john bailey 3 years, 2 months ago

bend over......and whats this I see about RCR14 , thanks guys really know where we stand down here......the fairway was really challenging last Friday..... FORE......


Brian Kotowski 3 years, 2 months ago

Absent the acquisition of additional space specifically allocated to relieve the problem, metered parking is probably worth a try.


Scott Wedel 3 years, 2 months ago

I don't see how paid parking is going to make any difference in real estate agents, lawyers and so on from parking in front of their downtown offices.

The core of any plan to keep parking available for customers is to relentlessly strictly enforce two hour (or whatever) parking limits.

Charging for parking is a revenue generator that might be how to pay for relentless strictly enforcing two hour parking. But I'd guess that the relentless enforcement of 2 hour parking would probably generate enough fines to pay for the enforcement.

I think another solution is to have a large nearby parking lot that is only a few minutes from downtown. Such as how Ski Corps has frequent shuttles to their remote parking lots so there is little gained spending time trying to find a free spot in the closer Knoll parking lot.


Vince arroyo 3 years, 2 months ago

Yes, paid parking -Revenue Directed towards a plausible manner . - How about -Court House parking Garage, 8th Street parking Garage. Three levels each. Saving on snow removal. Or using the bus, Carpooling etc.


Joey Bowman 3 years, 2 months ago

Paid parking? That's a great way to attract more people downtown to spend money,why not stay Home and order online for less.I thought that the lot just west of dream island was the solution to parking down town? Sound like Greedboat to me.


mark hartless 3 years, 2 months ago

There's enough downtown activity/traffic to charge for parking, but not enough to consider a by-pass around the bottleneck...


Thomss Steele 3 years, 2 months ago

Are you kidding me?!? Article after article spouts off about how we should support our local merchants. Shop Steamboat? Let's see how else we can harm our local businesses with additional taxes. Wake up people.


Mark Rueff 3 years, 2 months ago

The only times it is bad is during high traffic weeks when we are at 100% lodging. And it's really not that bad. So you have to drive around the block to get a spot. If the employees are taking their businesses prime spots, then that should be up to them to police. Back to the 100% housing: Unless we are going to up lodging beds another 25%, then there is nothing to plan for given our current parking. With more people coming during more weeks, it will happen more often, but really its not that bad. The only thing antiquated about this situation is that the city has yet to implement this as a revenue source. And if you want to be like Vail or Telluride, then give us free parking at the airport!

If you charge for parking, you will keep locals from coming down - I promise. And it's not the shopping that will take the hit but the restaurants. All of us locals eat/drink out more that we shop and paid parking is a hassle and an added expense. Next thing you know we will be paying for "free" concerts as well as admission to the rubber ducky race, winter carnival, bike parking and the farmers market. We have a free bus system, spend a little money advertising that in the paper for tourists and it will be an easier, cheaper way to get this done.


Cresean Sterne 3 years, 2 months ago

Steamboat has always had a bit of a parking problem except during down times. Every tourist town has this issue. Ever try to park on Pearl St. in Boulder during busy times? It is almost impossible. I Have always found a place to park during busy events like winter carnivale or New Years. Just have to walk a little bit. Pd. parking is not the solution and will only cause more frustration amongst everyone. Isnt it the employers responsibility to make sure that his or her employee is parking where they should be. The ski area is a good example. You better get your but up early if you want to park at the lower knolls lot otherwise your walking a bit. As far as Pd parking in other towns, I have parked in Breckenridge 5 times in the last 2 months and never saw a parking meter. I parked down town on main st and on the side streets and there are no meters there. I havent been TellurIde in a years so cant speak on that except to say it must have been recently and may have been because of the very large multi-day festivals like the Blue Grass Festival and others..


Bill Fetcher 3 years, 2 months ago

Parking meters might work in other resort towns but not in SS, at least they didn't back around 1950 when the city first experimented with them. They were removed after a year or two when it was discovered that farmers and ranchers were parking on the edge of town and walking in to tend to their shopping and other errands. The city might still have them in storage somewhere. Bill Fetcher


Stan Zuber 3 years, 2 months ago

Vince, I like the idea of a 3 level parking garage. You won't be cluttering up main street with meters.


Mark Rueff 3 years, 2 months ago

And if you think people in Steamboat are not price sensitive, the recycling at Safeway was full at 4:30 Friday afternoon.


Cresean Sterne 3 years, 2 months ago

Thats a good point.. Its always full and I've noticed that people just dump there stuff on the outside for the wind and critters to get into. Basicaly littering.. Its becomeing a bit of a mess and I've noticed that the wind has taken some into Fish Creek.. Another bin needs to be dropped off.. If it's full take it backhome with you. Yah it sucks but its the right thing to do..


Scott Wedel 3 years, 2 months ago

But another Green Machine bin is a few hundred dollars per weekend which they don't have in their budget.

And their preferred solution is to have everyone paying for curbside recycling so there doesn't have to be drop off recycling.


Cresean Sterne 3 years, 2 months ago

Anyone can still go to waste mangement for free recycling drop off 5 days a week and most curb side is free now unless you buy their holding bins or roll out totes. I think that western is the only one that still requires their customers to seperate cans, papers, plastics and bottles probably because they dont have a sorting machine. But hey.. it is still a free service..


Tim Keenan 3 years, 2 months ago

Why not? Tourists won't bat an eye at plunking down a few bucks to park downtown. Just give residents free permits.


Krista Monger 3 years, 2 months ago

Snow removal would be a hassle. It seems like there are already enough obstacles on the sidewalks without adding parking meters


Requires free registration

Posting comments requires a free account and verification.