CB council agreeable to more parking management in town

Goal is still to reduce number of cars

By Mark Reaman

The Crested Butte Transportation and Mobility plan draft will see some more refinement as the town council spent almost two hours brainstorming ideas and making observations about the plan at a January 16 work session. 

One of the primary points of agreement amongst the council was to start considering how to implement more parking management measures in town since the plan makes clear that “parking management is the most powerful tool available to influence how people move to and around town.” Council spent a lot of time during the work session focused on such management ideas.

Parking garage and bus stop at Third and Elk ideas nixed

Council members made clear that the idea of a parking structure in town, especially at the Four-Way Stop by the current tennis courts, would not see a lot of support from them. 

“There has been a lot of discussion about a parking structure but if the goal is to keep cars out of town, that would draw cars in,” said councilmember Jason MacMillan. “While I appreciate having people in town, I don’t think that’s the right approach.”

“Our central strategy would be park-and-rides in places like CB South, Brush Creek and Gunnison,” said Community Development director Troy Russ, who agreed that building a parking garage in town would be inviting more vehicles into town.

Councilmember Kent Cowherd brought up the idea of possibly putting a stop sign or even a bus stop at Third and Elk, but the general feeling was that such an action would make that area less safe. Other mid-Elk Avenue bus stops had been tried in the past and were quickly eliminated given concerns by the bus drivers. Russ said that for the most part, compliance with the 10 miles-per-hour summer speed limit on Elk Avenue was pretty good.

Mayor Ian Billick said he personally saw the least safe pedestrian situations regularly occurring at the intersection of Sixth and Elk and on Third Street just off Elk Avenue toward the alleys. 

Councilmember Anna Fenerty said she felt bikes and possible bike lanes could be better emphasized in the plan. 

Major parking management discussion

“The council should talk policy direction with parking management,” said Billick. “It is a matter of calibration. We can dial it up or dial it down as the situation evolves. It is an important tool.”

“It is an area where we can try things and use different tactics to see if something is working,” said Fenerty. “Little changes can get a lot of feedback and we can learn from that. Even though convenience is important, there are places to try things.”

“What is the metric,” asked councilmember Gabi Prochaska. “What makes town dial something back if it isn’t working? Personally, I would like us to manage parking more to a certain degree and mandate it to some extent. I would like fewer cars in areas of town. But we need a metric to accomplish that.”

“Community feedback is part of the metric,” said Fenerty. “It worked when adjusting parking permit rules on Sopris and Maroon.”

“I agree with reducing the number of cars in town,” said councilmember Mallika Magner. “I understand there will be some inconvenience with that, but it is an important goal. We can use various tools with flexibility.”

“Generally speaking, I am okay with parking management,” agreed councilmember Beth Goldstone. “Reducing the volume of cars is what we’ve been talking about for a while. But we need to take to heart collaborating with the local workforce and make sure we keep them in mind with whatever action we take. Is it possible to implement some strict parking management and keep the workforce in town?”

Free and easy not as good as paid parking?

“I’ve always had issues with the idea of the ‘free-and-easy’ attitude toward parking in town,” said MacMillan. “Paid parking is used in some places and can help with some of the ambitious plans to expand transit.”

“I’m okay with putting in some paid parking but we have to do it delicately and respect the workforce that has to drive,” said Fenerty.

Cowherd said given expectations of traffic increases in the North Valley over the next several decades, there is opportunity to evaluate parking and better utilize existing space. “The tennis courts are an underutilized area,” he said. “We can maximize what we have and realize that is all we have.”

“If we are going to implement paid parking, we need to remember Crested Butte is the location for services in the north end of the valley,” said Magner. “We need to provide alternatives for people coming into town to shop or get their mail for example.”

“To me, Third Street by Elk Avenue is hard for pedestrians and that is in part due to the head-in parking,” said Billick. “If we get rid of that and go to parallel parking, it reduces parking and makes it safer.”

Third and Elk is an area connected to Totem Pole Park and it is dangerous,” said MacMillan. “It can sometimes feel like Mad Max. I’m wondering if places like Belleview might be better for head-in parking.” 

“In general, I am hearing that council is good with managing vehicles through parking management initiatives,” continued Billick. “The head-in parking issue addresses part of that.”

Replacing head-in parking with parallel parking along Third Street in the core of town would eliminate a significant number of parking spots in the center of CB but specific numbers would likely be discussed during the development of the Elk Avenue Streetscape Plan.

“While implementing new parking management, we need to simultaneously make people understand there are places to park in town,” said Prochaska. “So, it’s not the idea of just trying to restrict access but trying to manage it better.”

“We need to be honest though,” said Billick. “If we are making parking less convenient, then we are making parking less convenient.”

Russ said the data indicates there are trouble spots in town with parking and vehicles. “We can address some of those with time management and things like going from head-in parking to parallel parking in spots. We have excess parking in town currently not always being used (further away from the center of the business district). We can implement baby steps in the parking management plan right now. We’re raising the bar.” 

The draft plan suggests “baby steps” such as having council do an annual evaluation of parking in town and expanding permit parking around the Center for the Arts during large events. Longer term ideas include prioritizing surface lots in town for employees, reducing overflow skier parking in neighborhoods and actively managing parking on Butte Avenue for those accessing Peanut Lake Road.

Goldstone said it was a priority for her to continue to explore intercept parking lots south of Crested Butte.

“We need alternatives like park-and-rides before really tightening down the parking screws,” said MacMillan.

“It is reasonable (for staff) to think more in-depth about parking management and recalibrate that in the plan and come back with ideas,” concluded Billick. 

Town staff will take in the new direction and come back to the council with a revised draft plan in late February.

Check Also

Town and county meeting Monday to discuss Whetstone

Rents aren’t looking cheap at the moment By Mark Reaman It appears agreement could be …