Public input important
By Mark Reaman
The town of Crested Butte is actively moving toward finding an answer to increasing traffic congestion and parking problems. The staff is soliciting plans from experts to address parking and traffic mitigation that could ultimately include paid parking in town. Nothing would happen this summer but a company with the ability to develop a parking plan for town is expected to be selected by Town Council in August, with work on potential options beginning immediately.
“As part of the process, there will be considerable community outreach and involvement,” promised Crested Butte town planner Bob Nevins. “We are currently requesting proposals from both parking/transportation consultants and/or vendors for a two-phased work program: Phase 1 is understanding and developing a comprehensive parking management plan; and Phase 2 will be preparing an actual parking implementation program that can be initiated in phases over time.”
A 2014 parking study compiled for the town identified parking deficits of 232 spaces on weekdays and 403 spaces on weekends during the busy summer months. So, according to Nevins, the goals of pursuing a traffic and parking program are to “better manage our existing on-street and off-street [parking lots] parking supply rather than building costly parking structures and/or making major roadway improvements; 2) to ease traffic congestion and minimize the spill-over parking impacts into the residential neighborhoods; and 3) to provide an easy and fair parking system that is understandable to both guests and locals. Paid/timed parking, resident/employee parking permits, intercept parking, enforcement, etc., may be potential options.”
In the Request for Proposals (RFP) due back by July 23, the town said it is “developing a comprehensive Parking Management Plan and Implementation Program that includes integrated parking enforcement, violation fee collection and permit management system.”
The RFP states, “The town is philosophically opposed to multi-story parking garages and the popular notion that we can ‘build our way out’ of traffic congestion and parking problems. Instead, the Town is intent on changing behavior and better managing our parking resources to increase effective capacity and utilization of the existing parking supply in the downtown business core and residential neighborhoods while minimizing congestion, automobile/pedestrian conflicts and neighborhood impacts.”
Crested Butte is currently conducting a community survey and so far, more than 500 responses have come in. On the traffic question, the majority of respondents believe traffic congestion and parking availability is a problem at least some of the time. The most favorable solution supported by those taking the survey is to change user behavior, develop more parking and develop an intercept parking lot south of town.
Last fall, the Town Council supported the idea of implementing paid parking in town but wanted to gather more public feedback on the idea. The staff and council had consulted with a company called Interstate Parking that has implemented paid parking programs in other small towns, including ski resorts such as Breckenridge. Parking is paid based on license plate numbers and can be done through a smartphone app or credit card at solar-powered kiosk meters. In Breckenridge, for example, the first hour costs 50 cents.
At the time, it was estimated that revenues could be expected to total hundreds of thousands of dollars a year, depending on which entities participate and what rate is set for the paid parking. A preliminary estimate tallied the potential of raising $450,000 in gross revenues with $125,000 remaining after expenses that include personnel and equipment. Where to spend those revenues would be up to the towns and the resort. “Transit programs would be a logical place for some of it,” said Nevins in September.
Nevins explained this week in an email that “The goal in terms of parking revenues is to create a management plan that does not require the hiring of additional town staff and/or equipment; that does not require additional operating funds; and if additional funds are generated, that those monies are directed towards public transit, pedestrian/bike improvements, safety, etc. Ultimately, it would be great to have a unified parking management program that includes CBMR and Town in order to provide a seamless and unified parking management program.”
The Town Council is expected to select a company to address the traffic and parking issues at its August 7 meeting. Nevins said the long-term timeline would depend a lot on the public input. “We are committed to completing the Phase 1 Parking Management Plan,” he explained. “Phase 2 may or may not be pursued, depending upon the results of Phase 1, costs and council/community input.”