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
Steamboat Springs 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 www.steamboatsprings.net after a temporary hiatus.
The survey was scheduled to continue running through Thursday.
To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210, email scottfranz@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @ScottFranz10