Our View: A game changer
May 27, 2014
Just a few months ago, this editorial board challenged the Steamboat Springs City Council to be legacy thinkers — to move beyond general objectives and set big, important goals and follow up with action that will make a difference for local residents.
It now appears that council member Kenny Reisman has decided to make the solution to Steamboat's perennial downtown parking problems his legacy. At the May 19 council meeting, Reisman proposed removing all parking spots on Yampa Street to create an enhanced pedestrian experience, and he labeled the move a "game changer."
Although we're not ready to endorse the elimination of all parking along Yampa Street, we do admire Reisman's big-picture vision and his willingness to act boldly to fix an ongoing issue that previous councils have not been able to tackle.
Reisman's call to action was met with support from fellow council members Bart Kounovsky, Walter Magill and Sonja Macys, who all indicated they would like to see the council address the problem of downtown parking.
It's too soon to tell whether the answer lies in taking away all the parking spots along Yampa Street and creating centralized parking areas at the Howelsen rodeo grounds and ice rink lots with shuttles serving the downtown business district.
As Reisman points out, a move this bold could immediately revitalize the street as envisioned in the Yampa Street Promenade plan, but it would require buy-in from downtown business owners, locals and the visiting public.
Parking in the downtown area is an issue that's not going to go away, and it's a problem that only is going to get worse with time as Steamboat grows. At some point, the city is going to have to come up with a plan and move on it.
Council President Kounovsky suggested it was time for the council to appoint a task force to gather public comment on ways to improve Steamboat's parking system, and council member Tony Connell brought up the idea of leased off-site parking. The city has ordered signage for installation this summer that will direct people away from Lincoln Avenue to public parking lots at 10th Street and Howelsen Hill, but that is just a Band-Aid solution for an issue that calls out for a permanent fix.
The city has indicated it soon will be selecting a consultant to evaluate parking issues and make recommendations to the council. An RFP has been advertised, and proposals currently are being evaluated. According to the RFP itself, the city has been working on parking solutions for more than 15 years and a summer parking evaluation study was conducted in 1999. That study did not include information about paid parking as a solution, and the city now appears to be seeking information on a "business-based parking model" in its latest parking study request.
We encourage the current City Council to continue down the path toward finding a real solution to Steamboat's parking problem. Don't just commission a study and do nothing with the information. If an updated study to evaluate paid parking as a solution is necessary, we hope the money won't be wasted and the information collected in the study will be weighed and acted upon decisively.
Whether the answer lies in metered parking, pedestrian-only access along Yampa Street, employee parking and shuttle service based at the Stock Bridge Transit Center or off-street parking structures, the time is now to create a "game-changer" type of public parking plan as Reisman proclaimed last week — a long-term, best-practices solution that will positively impact Steamboat's downtown district for the benefit of businesses, residents and tourists alike. Sometimes, all it takes is a bold statement to spark discussion and provide the nucleus for real change and progress.