Majority of council ready to implement parking plan

Taking baby steps with enforcement and permits

[ By Mark Reaman ]

In conjunction with the summer reconfiguration of Elk Avenue to one-way traffic, the Crested Butte town council gave the thumbs up to a parking management plan in the core area of town. The new parking plan includes much tighter enforcement of two-hour parking on Elk Avenue, parking permits for the Sopris and Maroon Avenue neighborhoods and parking permits for employees that work downtown. An outside firm, Interstate Parking based out of Denver, will be hired to manage the parking. The council will consider the official action at the May 17 meeting.

In a work session last Monday, community development director Troy Russ and planner Mel Yemma outlined the benefits of a parking management plan.

“In our analysis, there is not a parking shortage but popular areas where there is not enough parking turnover,” Russ said in regard to the Third and Elk area. “We saw in our study this past winter that 48 vehicles remained parked on Elk Avenue one day for six hours or more. There are times the area around Third and Elk is full but go a block east and there is usually plenty of space.”
Russ also pointed out that with the so-called “parklets” 38 parking spaces would be eliminated this summer.

“Parking management is meant to change behavior and this plan keeps it free and easy,” Russ said.

Yemma said active enforcement of a two-hour parking limit on Elk will be enforced between 10 a.m. and 8 p.m.

To park on the nearby Sopris and Maroon Avenues will require a permit that residents will receive for free this year. An additional free permit will be supplied for visitors. After a year, a fee structure may be considered.

Employees of Elk Avenue area businesses will be given permits that will allow them to park on Sopris and Maroon Avenues. There will be a cap on the number of employee permits.

The town’s surface parking lots will continue to be available to anyone with no time constraints or permits required.

“We are focusing on the business corridor of Elk Avenue and we understand there can be a domino effect with the plan,” said Yemma. “We will have ongoing monitoring to see the impacts of the plan on other parts of town.”

Yemma said the town’s last outside parking consultant firm, Interstate Parking, will run the program and use its technology and “friendly ambassadors” to run the program. That is expected to be significantly cheaper than having the town run the program. Interstate estimated that it would cost $80,000 to run the program but it would garner $35,000 in parking revenue.

“The goal is to accommodate residents first, then employees,” said Russ. “With two-hour enforcement and moving employees off of Elk, visitors and people living outside town should more easily find space to park on Elk Avenue. As this evolves, it will likely change.”

“I appreciate the baby steps being suggested for a parking management plan,” said councilman Chris Haver. “I have a better comfort level starting this way. I am happy stepping into it this way before we go to paid parking.”

Mayor Jim Schmidt said it appeared that by just doing the two-hour enforcement on Elk, many of the parking issues could be solved. He suggested starting with the two-hour enforcement before moving to neighborhood and employee parking permits.
Schmidt also said in other resort communities, realtors like to park in front of their office and aren’t bothered by getting a ticket.

Interstate’s Gareth Lloyd said that in Breckenridge there was a similar issue but the town installed an escalating ticket price system where if a vehicle was given more than two tickets in 10 days, a significant penalty was imposed. “It really wasn’t much of a problem after that went into effect,” he said.

Lloyd said towing is not a usual practice for Interstate and in Breckenridge last winter a total of just six vehicles were towed. Speaking of towing, Russ said the marshals would still be responsible for ticketing and towing cars parked on the wrong side of the street in the ski season when town snowplows were hitting the streets.

Councilwoman Mona Merrill who used to live in Breckenridge said there were definitely some growing pains when that system was implemented but it is now working great. She too liked the idea of starting a parking management system slowly.

“Baby steps are fine,” concluded councilman Will Dujardin. “We don’t want to shock people. But I see paid parking on Elk in the future and a permit system put in place throughout all areas of town. But we have to start with something easy.”

In a separate but related action, the council approved an official 10 mile per hour speed limit to go into effect for Elk, Sopris and Maroon Avenues. That is a decrease from the current 15 mph speed limit.
Staff will bring back a final plan with the proposed elements for the council to consider at the May 17 meeting.

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