Our View: Shifting out of neutral
August 2, 2014
After reading the recommendations of parking consultant Scot Martin in the July 30 Steamboat Today, can we all agree that we won't be building a $2 million-plus parking structure in the first half of this century?
The city of Steamboat Springs spent $54,000 to retain Martin, who has designed numerous parking structures in the past, to undertake a parking study in Steamboat Springs. Martin concluded that Steamboat does not have a "big" parking problem. He said that at a cost to build above-ground parking at $20,000 to $25,000 per space, a parking structure here "Would not come close to paying for itself."
If we were able to build a 100-space concrete parking structure on top of the existing Eighth Street surface lot, for example, it would cost at least $2 million and it would jut up from behind the historic buildings on Lincoln Avenue, not to mention throwing a big shadow on the Tread of Pioneers Museum.
No thank you.
That said, we don't think it was a waste of time and money to seek Martin's perceptions of the parking situation in downtown Steamboat. In a January editorial, we agreed with Steamboat Springs City Council member Walter Magill that downtown is changing, and goals for its revitalization warrant a fresh look at parking. And we also agree with Mainstreet Steamboat Springs Manager Tracy Barnett's comment this week that even though Steamboat does not appear to have a significant parking issue right now, we are obligated to prepare for a different future.
Martin suggested that city officials pursue several methods of making the most of existing parking resources to alleviate some of the crunch times, like those experienced in July during Art in the Park. They include striping some of Steamboat's parking spaces to make them smaller and thus increasing a net gain across downtown. With more and more smaller cars on the road, that makes good sense to us.
In January, we suggested in this space that the city experiment with parking meters in the Eighth and Tenth street lots to see if motorists would embrace them. Martin has a more modern idea, which we will support; testing single-space smart meters on select areas. We understand that for many, the advent of parking meters in Steamboat would be emblematic of a loss of our small-town character. But visits to Aspen and Telluride in the peak summer season have convinced us that some form of meters inevitably will become an important tool for turning over critical short-term parking spots on Lincoln Avenue and Yampa Streets.
Martin also advocated for the use of new license plate technology to aid parking enforcement. The implication is that city parking enforcement officers would be able, over time, to determine if specific residents whose employment is tied to businesses on Lincoln and Yampa are habitually compounding the scarcity of parking for customers.
If the city can put Martin's advice to work and squeeze a few dozen more parking spaces out of downtown, his fee will have been a good investment compared to the cost of building a parking structure.
Let's act on Martin's recommendations in the short term. Then prepare for the distant future by consulting with our mountain town peers to learn how they are using a blend of mass transit and remote parking lots to deal with more severe parking issues than our own.