Traffic moves through downtown Steamboat Springs. A consultant from Denver told a crowd Tuesday night that while he doesn't think Steamboat has a 'big' parking problem right now, some challenges remain.

Photo by Scott Franz

Traffic moves through downtown Steamboat Springs. A consultant from Denver told a crowd Tuesday night that while he doesn't think Steamboat has a 'big' parking problem right now, some challenges remain.

Parking consultant says Steamboat Springs doesn't have a 'big' downtown parking problem, but challenges remain


Parking survey results show most respondents favor free parking

Community members on Tuesday night were able to hear the results of a parking opinion survey the city has been conducting in recent weeks.

Here is a breakdown of the results from the first 359 responses:

70 percent of respondents said parking is generally available on weekdays

34 percent said parking is generally available on weekends

59 percent said parking is generally available in the evenings

46 percent said a lack of convenient parking deters them from going downtown

67 percent said they do not want to see the most convenient parking spaces in the downtown corridor be subject to parking meters

— A longtime resident stood up at the Steamboat Springs Community Center on Tuesday night and asked his fellow crowd members not to laugh when he revealed his big idea for how to improve downtown parking.

Horse-drawn vehicles could be the ticket, the man said after citing the allure of this city's rich Western heritage.

Another person suggested a downtown gondola.

Another wanted to see a moving walkway across the Yampa River.

Another wanted a parking garage.

The ideas community members offered at a forum focused on downtown parking improvements ranged from the grandiose and futuristic to the plain and simple.

On the flip side, there were some in the audience who didn't propose any changes and instead asked what the problem was with the current downtown parking and why a new $54,000 study was needed.

There were others, though, who called on the city to do something before downtown gets more crowded and spots become harder to come by.

Standing in the middle of the flood of ideas and opinions was Scot Martin, a longtime parking consultant from Denver who has spent some recent days observing how cars move and park in the downtown corridor.

What did he think of parking downtown?

Martin, a senior planner at Desman Associates, told the audience of about 40 people that his survey of the parking situation so far hasn't revealed a "big" problem in Steamboat, but there are some issues the city could address at a relatively low cost.

One of the most significant problems, he said, is the ongoing tendency of long-term parkers such as downtown employees who take up prime short-term parking spaces.

He estimated these types of parkers were taking up about 10 percent of the parking spaces downtown.

He also found that on July 12, a busy Saturday in Steamboat when Art in the Park and the Balloon Rodeo were going on, downtown parking was effectively full from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

But just 24 hours before on Friday, Martin said there generally was adequate parking downtown.

"If you were willing to park a couple of blocks away, parking was available on Friday," Martin said.

Martin has been tasked by the city to make recommendations for how to improve downtown parking in Steamboat.

He offered an early glimpse of some of the things he may recommend to the Steamboat Springs City Council later this summer when the study is done.

They include making some downtown parking spaces smaller to make room for some more spaces and looking into license plate recognition technology to aid in parking enforcement.

Single space smart parking meters also are being considered in the study.

Steamboat has been meter free since its first experiment with parking meters on Lincoln Avenue ended several decades ago with them being ripped up out of the ground and taken away.

"For right now, we're going to try to better utilize the existing parking resources, and hopefully there's enough parking out there to do that," Martin said.

Several community members spoke in favor of a downtown parking structure, but Martin, who has designed the structures for many years, said he didn't think it would be economically viable in Steamboat.

"It would not come close to paying for itself," he said after estimating the cost to build each parking space here above ground could range from $20,000 to $25,000 per space.

Other community members advocated for the city to better utilize the parking at Howelsen Hill.

Another advocated for more taxi services and public transit options.

After a lengthy discussion about a variety of ideas to improve parking, community members had different reactions to the latest parking talk.

Mainstreet Steamboat Springs Manager Tracy Barnett said she wanted the city and the council to agree on a long-range plan for downtown parking.

"What I'm really concerned about is the future," Barnett said. "We can't be building it for what we have today, we have to be thinking in the future. We don't even have a plan for the future. Ten years from now, it's going to be different."

She said even if it can't act on the ideas yet, the city should identify places it can put future parking spaces downtown.

She said earlier in the evening that money continues to be the challenge in realizing parking improvements.

The parking presentation was a prelude to an update Martin will give City Council on Aug. 5 about his study.

Along with Tony Connell, City Council member Scott Ford was one of the elected officials in the room who ultimately will decide how the city should move forward on parking.

Ford said after the presentation that he wasn't ready to jump into any of the proposed solutions.

"I'm not coming away with a gigantic sense of urgency to do something right away," Ford said.

Did you miss the meeting Tuesday night?

Martin said an online survey about downtown parking was going to be put back online Wednesday at after a temporary hiatus.

The survey was scheduled to continue running through Thursday.

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


Fred Duckels 2 years, 9 months ago

Studies invariably tell those that hired the consultant just what they wanted to hear. This study has latitude to make of it what you wish. Stacy has exhibited the rare attribute of projecting ahead and working proactively to prepare for the future. She seems to be the only one that thinks that we need more than a pack of Band-Aids. The rest are content to kick the can into infinitum. We need to think big and start the ball rolling which is almost unheard of under the circumstances. Along with Stacy's concerns we seemingly forget that our traffic problem is getting closer every day to an ugly situation. What may seem to be acceptable now may be a real mess when the economy picks up. We are all concerned with brick and mortar but eventually we need to address the basics. I talked to a man from Glenwood recently and we both agreed that both towns have neglected traffic in favor of short term financial concerns and now are boxed in with one street towns leaving us as dumb and dumber when it comes to planning for the future. The sad part is that visionaries only appear after the horse is out of the barn.


Scott Wedel 2 years, 8 months ago

Or why the report needs to read in detail to determine how the new report calculated employee downtown parking vs how the previous calculated it.

I very much doubt there has been that much of a change in employee habits. I'd guess the two reports count similar things differently.

I don't understand why moving the police station is expected to have any significant impact. In terms of impact, they are 40 office workers. There are not that many visitors coming in the front door I note that it wasn't long ago that it was seen as critical to keep county judicial employees downtown because they frequent downtown businesses.


Michael Bird 2 years, 8 months ago

From many printed comments plus comments from most locals that I have asked about parking over four decades, it seems we do not , repeat do not, have a problem except again wasting $$$$ on yet another unneeded study. Yes, parking is short on a few special days each year. Yes, if people will walk two blocks they will usually be able to park near their destination except for those special few days like July 4th. . Yes, if employees are required by employers to park away from Oak,Lincoln, and Yampa, a huge amount of convenient parking spaces are now available.Yes, Howelson provides lots of employee parking spots especially for those who run or bike miles on days off, belong to an exersize facility, or ski extensively but can't walk six blocks or less to a job site.

Are minor adjustments needed - yes. This is true about almost everything. Instead of spending $54,000 to find out, again, what we already knew, it more prudently could have been spent on actual minor improvements. And isn't it fun that we paid this money for only an estimate as to how many employees park downtown? Anyone could have given an estimate for free and been as accurate.

Finally, and sadly, I didn't read anything about providing convenient parking spaces for the handicapped. Pushing a wheelchair bound person two or more blocks is not convenient nor easy for the elderly and not all have electric wheelchairs.


Scott Wedel 2 years, 8 months ago


Well, obviously another $54,000 study is needed to survey the usage of handicapped parking spaces and the distance that handicapped are being forced to travel from the parking spot they find to their destination.


Scott Ford 2 years, 8 months ago

As I told Scott Franz last night, I did not come away with any sense of urgency to do something major right now. We do not have a parking crisis. To put things in perspective the consultants took their measurements on the busiest weekend (most downtown parking intense) of the summer of 2014. To put that date into perspective 2014 is on track to exceed the go-go days of the summer of 2007 and 2008. This was a good weekend to do this study because it helped quantify the question of what does “packed parking downtown” look like.

How accurate is the data collected by the consultant? Likely as accurate as it needs to be at this stage of the discussion. I hope to learn more about the methodology used to count the available public/private spaces in the consultant’s report. This will allow us to reasonably replicate the methodology using local resources such as the Boy/Girl Scouts equipped with a map of downtown and armed with clip-boards. The utilization of specific spaces at any given point in time is a wee-bit more complex but again doable with local resources. Perhaps this is a CMC student project?

The survey the consultant conducted is essentially a “poll”. Although there may be some value to the responses, I do not feel too much credibility should be assigned to the percentages cited; at least not more credibility than is attributed to the readers’ polls done by the newspaper.

There are a number of options that can be employed before we start building parking structures and lining Lincoln/Yampa avenues with parking meters – no matter how smart those meters may or may not be or who owns them.

It is hard for me to understand why we have parking regulations – yet do not seem to enforce those regulations with a level of consistency necessary to change behavior of long term parking “users” parking in short term spaces. The geography of the downtown parking problem is relatively focused and the area where the long term vs. short term behavior problem exist is even more narrowly focused. Focusing our collective enforcement energy will likely yield the desired results. However, it must be done consistently over time.

I like what Chuck Anderson, Public Works Director is doing. He is experimenting with low impact / low cost alternatives to increasing parking. Changes in “striping”, orientation and leasing spaces in existing private parking lots is a smart low cost approach. I think we encourage Chuck to continue to experiment with the goal of squeezing every available parking space out of existing resources.

Although I am a member of City Council my opinions are my own and may not reflect those of my fellow council members.)


bill schurman 2 years, 8 months ago

"They include making some downtown parking spaces smaller to make room for some more spaces and looking into license plate recognition technology to aid in parking enforcement." Has Mr. Martin been to Steamboat and see the number of pickups and large SUVs ?? After all this is a Western, ranching town so the Chamber says.


mark hartless 2 years, 8 months ago

Make parking places smaller!???

Probably from the same "visionary" nit-wits that took all the filling out of my Oreo cookies.


John Weibel 2 years, 8 months ago

Smaller spaces on Lincoln will serve to slow down traffic further making a small traffic problem into a larger one. This as it will take more time to pull into a parking space properly and be within the "lines".

Simply, looking at one waying the numbered streets from 6th to 12th will add ample spaces and make it easier to turn onto Lincoln during the busy summer days. That simple fix, does not require long term leasing of private parking, allowing those funds to be spent on maintenance.


Scott Wedel 2 years, 8 months ago

I think parking meters for the prime spaces, but at a low rate such as a dollar per hour would be better and more effective than focusing on enforcement. The problem with enforcement is that people always learn what is and is not being enforced. If two hour parking is enforced after 4 hours then employees learn to move their cars every 3 hours.

Parking meters at a nominal rate are not going to bother shoppers or diners. A few dollars for a prime spot is a deal for most shoppers.

But the nominal rate becomes a serious added expense for employees.

The key is to retain substantial free parking and limit parking meters to only the prime spots in the core of downtown..


Brian Kotowski 2 years, 8 months ago

As has been long noted by the old saw: real estate is the one thing they're not making more of. Absent a hideously expensive parking structure, it'll boil down to enforcement. I've seen people marking tires downtown. Assign another body or two to that task, beef up the penalties (fines/boots/towing/impound) and impose them equally and unilaterally on patrons and employees alike.

The issue will resolve itself.


Martha D Young 2 years, 8 months ago

$54 K could have been more effectively spent on the salary of a parking enforcement officer.


Kieran O'Halloran 2 years, 8 months ago

I will chalk tires for $54k a summer. Be outside getting a tan and a workout!


Scott Ford 2 years, 8 months ago

Hi Martha - Well said!! (Although I am a member of City Council my opinions are my own and may not reflect those of my fellow council members.)


Fred Duckels 2 years, 8 months ago

Most of the bloggers have the idea that we can get by with little effort and all will be well. An increase of considerable size is always possible and we need to put our minds in the right frame and be thinking in those terms. The challenge is to address and be prepared when the time comes. If a business operated in the "all is well" mode it would soon find itself in the also ran category. We had a good dose of looking ahead on the Iron Horse and Affordable Housing debacles and maybe we are content to keep our powder dry. We need to keep dreaming and coming up with better ideas but these blogs seem willing to accept our unimaginable lot in life.


Michael Bird 2 years, 8 months ago

If there is a parking problem, it should be addressed BUT there isn't one. Plain and simple. We wasted $400,000 on the study that ended with chaos on Lincoln - uselesss and expensive bump-outs instead of sidewalk ramps and changing traffic light timing at a small cost, reduced parking spots, dangerous right turns from side streets. And then 54K is wasted on learning what we already knew and getting an estimate that any of us could have given for free with the same accuracy taht the study provided = 0%. . When there is a problem, conditions will have changed and timely solutions will be available possibly at a higher cost but possibly at no cost. If the Iron Horse had never been purchased, we would now not be saddled with it and it was supposed to aid future housing problems. It didn't. .


mark hartless 2 years, 8 months ago

I've been driving semi's, operating heavy equipment since before I was 15, that's 32 years. Driven every type commercial vehicle made in many states in all types of weather and terrain.

But since you have an F 250 you certainly know more about it than I. Your F 250 wheelbase is probably about half of a short dump-truck which is also about a foot and a half wider and ten times as heavy.

Any nimrod that looks at the plow impact marks on the beloved bump-outs knows what the plow drivers think and what the city equipment repair bill did when they were installed.


mark hartless 2 years, 8 months ago

The bump-outs suck. If you have a CDL or even a long passenger vehicle you know this. They also make plowing a pain. Ramps could have been in-set into the straight sidewalk. Quaint little idea that came from somebody who knows little or nothing about traffic. C-DoT did us no favors allowing them.


john bailey 2 years, 8 months ago

the bump outs were a horrible idea as those of us with long wheel bases can attest , you know , work trucks. if the knuckle heads are there looking for a turn onto 40 and off line a bit , those of us need to schooch (sp) to the left to make our right hand on the side street to avoid hitting the damn things. are people so lazy in their walking that they need this extra , what , 5 feet......I thought this was Bike Town USA you know fit , active non-obese people.....aahhhh need a break fro this carpet cleaning.........carp....~;0)


Fred Duckels 2 years, 8 months ago

Michael, Studies are a waste of money but are useful in providing certificates for cautious elected officials looking to hedge their bets.. If the experts were just that they would be out making their fortunes and not peddling advice. The real ideas must come from within and contrary to my interpretation of your ideas, some may be winners and that is what we need. In my opinion we just can't wait to spend every dime as it is generated on small ideas of those wishing to make a contribution, We need to think and plan bigger and spend wisely if we are to prepare for the future.


Scott Wedel 2 years, 8 months ago

Study results were obvious for anyone whom has been in any larger city.

And study's recommendations are standard stuff. Could have saved the money by asking any larger city for a copies of their parking studies.

When a local government is in the same situation that many other places have had prior experience then we do not need to do another study. We can look at what we think is working well in other places and look to adopt those plans.


Scott Wedel 2 years, 8 months ago

What is missing from the city's analysis is that parking in a downtown area near businesses is something to be managed so that it is optimized.

We could instantly free up every parking space downtown by banning parking.

We could instantly occupy every downtown parking space by rewarding people for parking their junkers downtown.

The goal of a parking plan is neither to have lots of empty spaces or no free spaces.

The goal of a parking plan is to maximize downtown business activity. In practice, that means having enough close enough parking available that is tolerable to customers. Thus, that customers still go downtown instead of to a strip mall or other location.

Thus, any proposed solution has to be evaluated on whether or not it improves or weakens downtown business activity. If there are a substantial number of customers willing to pay for closer parking then smart parking meters could be a solution. But parking meters could also discourage enough people from going downtown to do more harm than good.

Normally, it is the business owners in the congested area that ask for parking meters to free up parking for their customers They are in a good position to judge whether potential customers are going elsewhere due to difficulties finding parking spots and how many customers would go elsewhere instead of paying for parking.


Fred Duckels 2 years, 8 months ago

Scott, Anyone can apply the Band-Aids that you mention but the mark of a visionary is the ability to determine the path from there. In business decisions must be made daily. The secret is to make more good decisions than bad one's but coasting is seldom an option.


Scott Wedel 2 years, 8 months ago


I'm not saying it should be ignored, but parking is not something that is "solved" and forgotten.

Downtown parking primarily benefits downtown business owners. There is a delicate balance between parking being too hard to find and being too expensive. That balance is particularly tricky in a place like downtown Steamboat where parking scarcity is a seasonal issue. Nor have I seen any research on whether SB shoppers and restaurant goers are willing to pay for closer parking. If we switch to paid parking and people are generally unwilling to pay for parking then we have effectively removed those paid parking spots from the pool of available parking spots.


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