Community members can weigh in on downtown parking at Tuesday night forum | SteamboatToday.com

Community members can weigh in on downtown parking at Tuesday night forum

— When Steamboat Springs City Council member Scott Ford talks about the future of downtown parking here, he likes to point to his 1999 Honda Civic.

“It’s got issues, but I tolerate them because I don’t want to buy something new,” he said Monday.

He said the same could be true for the downtown parking situation in Steamboat.

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“I don’t think we’re ever going to have the perfect solution,” he said.

Will the issues with Steamboat’s downtown parking soon warrant a big investment or change?

That’s a question parking consultants and community members could start to help answer Tuesday night at a parking forum at the community center.

There are some business owners, council members and community members in town who have said Steamboat’s downtown parking situation is so bad, it’s time to buy that new “car.”

Their suggestions for the investment are wide ranging and include such things as a parking structure, meters, a Segway that would allow parking enforcement officers to better patrol the streets and a downtown shuttle.

At the parking forum, consultants from Denver who have spent part of the summer studying Steamboat’s downtown parking situation will present their initial findings.

Their research so far has included a survey of available parking and interviews with downtown shoppers and visitors.

City officials said the $54,000 parking study will give the city and the council some recommendations from experts for how to improve parking.

“I hope (this study) leads to a conversation that keeps moving us forward to create a better space down there for all of downtown,” City Council member Kenny Reisman said.

He said council’s decision last month to spend $50,000 on Yampa Street safety improvements, which have included new temporary curb stops to delineate parking, was a good way to start the conversation.

Reisman said getting businesses involved will be key as parking discussions advance.

Ford said he’s hoping the perceived parking problem downtown will be quantified in the latest study.

“I’m not anxious to jump into solutions before we have a really clear idea of what the problem is,” Ford said.

In a previous parking study from several years ago, Steamboat’s parking problem was defined as too many downtown employees taking up too many prime spaces.

The studies showed as many as 1,800 of 2,800 spaces downtown were taken by employees, according to a recent review of a 2012 study by the Urban Land Institute.

The ULI panel was in the city to study Yampa Street and reported there was a parking problem that stemmed from an “outdated parking management program.”

Today, opinions on the downtown parking situation seem to be as diverse as the makes of the cars that cruise down Lincoln Avenue.

Some business owners and community members say a lack of prime spaces is deterring customers and causing headaches.

But some visitors and residents will tell you they don’t think any big changes are needed.

Mainstreet Steamboat Springs Manager Tracy Barnett said the problem boils down to a lack of enforcement in a city that only employs one person who is focused on parking enforcement.

“One guy out there chalking tires isn’t the best way to go,” she said.

She said there are ways of improving enforcement without taking the jump to a paid parking system.

“I think paid parking is still one of those things most people would rather not see,” she said.

Tuesday’s forum starts at 5:30 p.m.

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

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