Our view: Roping in more parking
March 11, 2017
Making the most of our parking opportunities
Paid parking in Steamboat Springs is inevitable
We support City Council President Walter Magill's proposal to create an estimated 100 new remote parking spots by paving the dirt parking at Romick Rodeo Arena. But even though we admire Magill's consistent efforts through the years to address our downtown parking problem, we don't buy the logic that 100 new spaces at the rodeo grounds would put off the need to impose paid parking on the downtown commercial district.
We see paid parking as an inevitability and expect traffic congestion to ease within weeks of installing such as system.
We also believe that, instead of beautifying the current entrance to the rodeo grounds, as the council president has suggested, the city should move the entrance to a new location that won't cause cars headed for events at Howelsen Hill to back up at the railroad crossing. If city officials don't believe that's a problem, they can ask their own community service officers and the Howelsen Hill maintenance staff.
Breckenridge became the latest Colorado mountain town to institute paid parking in its historic downtown in December 2016, and part of that town’s motivation was to reduce the number of vehicles that clogged side streets while they circled in search of an open parking spot. Another desire was to have 15 percent of the on-street spaces in the historic town available at any given time. A town official told the Summit Daily on Feb. 16 that goal had been nearly realized, with exceptions at certain times of the day on certain days of the week.
Even with fleets of condominium shuttle vans taking much of the parking pressure off Old Town Steamboat, we've all experienced the need to drive alleyways and hover while people carrying shopping bags approach their parked vehicles so we can swoop in.
We think new paved parking at the rodeo arena, which is used a relative handful of days each year, is an ideal place for employees of downtown businesses to park so their customers can park closer.
Magill rationalized that paving the dirt portion of the rodeo parking lot would be cheaper than building a parking structure, and that's certainly true; we haven't forgotten what parking consultant Scott Martin concluded in 2014: Building a 100-space parking lot at the site of the current Eighth Street surface parking lot would cost $2 million. The parking site would loom behind the historic buildings on Lincoln Avenue while throwing shadows on Oak Street. We'll take paid parking over an ugly parking structure that would be a blight on downtown.
We aren't oblivious to the fact that many local residents and second homeowners loathe paid parking. But we've all been to other mountain towns, from Jackson, Wyoming, to Aspen to Telluride to Santa Fe, New Mexico, and experienced how well they work. Nobody fumbles in their pockets to feed meters anymore. Instead, they go to a kiosk to purchase parking with their debit cards and their mobile devices.
The 100 parking spots Magill's plan would provide will be offset as soon as the former Yampa Valley Electric Association parking lot on 10th Street is redeveloped. And where will we be then? The answer is, we'll be desperately in need of a high-tech paid parking system that will ensure parking spots turn over regularly, allowing guests and locals alike to enjoy some of Steamboat's best downtown restaurants and shopping opportunities. Those activities will, in turn, fund city operations with sales tax revenues.
Paid parking doesn't discourage people from shopping in busy downtown districts; it makes it easier to frequent independent retailers' shops. Paid parking works.
Let's get on with it.