Our View: Here we go again with parking

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When we heard the news this week that the city of Steamboat Springs is investigating paid parking in downtown, we couldn’t help but think, “Here we go again.”

Steamboat Today editorial board — January to April 2014

  • Suzanne Schlicht, COO and publisher
  • Lisa Schlichtman, editor
  • Tom Ross, reporter
  • Karl Gills, community representative
  • Will Melton, community representative

Contact the editorial board at 970-871-4221 or editor@SteamboatToday.com. Would you like to be a member of the board? Fill out a letter of interest now.

We aren’t rejecting paid parking as one way to achieve what should be the shared goal of turning over parking spaces in our historic downtown parking district. We’ve seen that it has been successful in busier mountain towns from Santa Fe to Telluride and Jackson, Wyo. The businesses there are not suffering; they are thriving.

There always will be people who dislike paying for parking. But it could prove to be a more palatable way than ticketing to prevent people from abusing free parking.

The thing is, we aren’t convinced that the downtown parking situation here is unmanageable.

In August 1999, a study commissioned by the city concluded that at least 75 percent of available spaces in the downtown core were being occupied on a daily basis by residents and commuters rather than tourists.

Another way to turn over parking spaces is to use parking tickets to train motorists to move on when their time is up. That same study reported that locals were receiving more parking tickets than visitors. That was due in large part to the fact that first-time violators (read vacationers) were being issued warnings, not tickets. But by 2000, then-police captain Rick Crotz said progress was being made, and the number of violations issued had dropped from 571 in 1999 to 462 for the same period in 2000. The cumulative amount of the fines collected also had dropped steeply to just $1,670.

Also in 2000, the Downtown Business Association was pressing the city to build a multi-level parking structure. Paul Hughes, the city manager at the time, was optimistic that with the paving of the parking lot at the Howelsen Hill ice skating rink, 90 new, close-in parking spots would open up, creating new possibilities for downtown workers to park away from the limited parking on Oak and Yampa streets and the side streets connecting them to Lincoln Avenue. Hughes even dangled the possibility of a shuttle from the ice rink into downtown.

Hughes also found a low-cost way to add to downtown parking inventory when he urged that parking on certain sections of downtown side streets be striped for diagonal parking. It worked on Fourth, Seventh and 11th streets.

We agree with remarks by Steamboat Springs City Council member Walter Magill this month that downtown is changing and goals for its revitalization warrant a fresh look at parking. It’s plain to all of us that parking shortages are more acute in the evening on Yampa Street and the side streets than on Lincoln Avenue itself.

But we feel strongly that any plan to establish paid parking downtown (likely in the form of kiosks that accept debit cards rather than old-fashioned parking meters) be matched with a serious effort by downtown businesses, including offices and government buildings. We suggest they actively incentivize their employees to park several blocks away from the commercial district. We also think it is important that downtown stakeholders take part and get behind any parking improvement plans initiated by the city.

Finally, should the city undertake a program to implement paid parking, we hope they will consider testing the concept at the existing Eighth Street and/or 10th Street parking lots, but only in the busy summer and winter seasons. We could learn much from how paid parking is received in those two strategically situated lots.

It will be interesting to see if motorists avoid them or embrace them.

Comments

Scott Wedel 2 months, 4 weeks ago

The real question with paid parking is whether it actually makes any difference in the availability in parking for customers of downtown businesses or is just another source of government revenue?

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Brian Kotowski 2 months, 4 weeks ago

Seems to me that absent a parking structure it boils down to enforcement. I've seen people administering chalk marks on tires downtown; maybe all we need is another body or two during the season marking cars and issuing citations. And perhaps more draconian penalties - booting or towing.

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Lee Cox 2 months, 4 weeks ago

What infuriates me is when there is a 5 foot gap between cars parked along Lincoln Avenue. If the City stripes them and puts up poles, but without meters, to mark the actual spaces, and they could put small signs indicating the time limit, then the spaces will be used more efficiently. I also agree that better enforcement is needed.

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john bailey 2 months, 4 weeks ago

I'll take , Government revenue , for $400 , Alex.....~;0) get your hula here...

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bill schurman 2 months, 4 weeks ago

Good luck with snow removal. Why should someone driving a rental car care about a silly parking citation?

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Scott Wedel 2 months, 4 weeks ago

Also, any change to paid parking on Lincoln is easy to predict will have side effects such as increased parking on Oak St and elsewhere just outside the paid parking area. Look at where people park during Winter Carnival and expect a lot of similar parking by people avoiding paid parking. Paid parking also should be expected to affect some businesses more than others. Paid parking won't affect getting an expensive dinner, but it could affect where to get lower cost items such a buying a case of beer.

I think first off that a newer parking study is required because the previous one is 15 years old.

And if the issue remains employee parking then MainStreet and the downtown businesses are a pretty sorry bunch if the best remedy they can propose to solve that issue is paid parking for everyone including their customers.

It really should not be too hard for downtown businesses and City Hall to figure out where employees should park and then figure out a plan to encourage employees to park there.

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mark hartless 2 months, 4 weeks ago

Lee,

It's hard to see white stripes in the snow. It is also hard to get a 23' flatbed truck like mine in a spot sized for a subaru. Often times there are spaces between autos because a long one pulled out and a shorter one took it's place, or because the space created by the small vehicle or motorcycle that just left is just not enough room for the suburban.

In general I believe most people park as close as they can to the other parked cars without crowding them. But many tourists (and even locals) don't seem to realize how important it is to park against the curb instead of several feet from it.

If folks want to enhance revenue from parking just ticket every vehicle parked farther than 1' from the curb; that ought to generate millions...

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Kevin Nerney 2 months, 3 weeks ago

Lee, coming from the Big City I always park far enough back from the car in front of me so I can get out if I have to. If I were to park tight to the car in front of me and some jackwagon was to park right on my rear bumper I would never get out. I also stop so that I can see the wheels of the car in front of me touching the ground. People have asked me why I stay so far back and I tell them so I can't get carjacked. I have plenty of room to get away. t

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steve randall 2 months, 2 weeks ago

Take the free bus or ride a bike, the less cars downtown the better. Plenty of parking at the grocery stores, hardware, pharmacies. Those of us that have worked in retail remember the cardinal sin of parking close to the store, they were for customers. We parked in the back. Parking meters might alleviate a little downtown congestion.

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