CB Council “dials up” parking regulations

Tightening regs to gradually discourage cars in town

By Katherine Nettles

In a gradual but sustained effort to reduce the number of cars circulating within the town of Crested Butte, the Crested Butte town council agreed on Monday night to expand the scope of their parking plan by eliminating some parking spaces, reducing the grace period for permitted parking spaces in residential areas and more strictly enforcing parking regulations. They also agreed to keep a closer eye on some parking hot spots around town, including all bus stops and the areas near the Center for the Arts and Crested Butte Nordic Center where residents have complained about congested parking. Town staff will wait a few weeks before entering a new contract with parking enforcement company Interstate to ensure they allow time for community feedback.

 In a work session with Interstate representatives, Crested Butte marshals and the town’s community development director Troy Russ, the council considered the current scope of their parking contract with Interstate, and gave Russ and the marshal’s department direction on how they would like to turn up the dial on enforcement and several other measures to reduce the convenience of driving, in keeping with their strategic plan to reduce vehicular traffic (and carbon emissions) in town.  

Since summer 2021, Interstate has managed parking for the town during the summer months—from the last week of June through Labor Day—and during the winter months, from December 15 through the end of ski season. The most recent contract was executed in April 2023, and it is set for renewal next month.

Russ reviewed for council the current contract, by which Interstate maintains the town’s parking website, payment portal (for violations), registers residential parking permits and collects and returns parking fines and revenues to the town. Revenues are comprised entirely of fines from parking violations for vehicles parked longer than two hours on Elk Avenue, longer than two hours on Sopris and Maroon without a permit and any vehicles parked illegally within the management area. 

The cost of Interstate’s service in 2023 was $72,100. Violation revenues totaled  $12,967, generated mostly during July and August, and offset the cost so that the program operates at an approximate $60,000 deficit annually. 

Russ noted that the town saw a marked decline in revenues when it instituted a two-hour grace period for the neighborhood permit zones in 2023, where in 2022 it had a one-hour grace period in place.

In a 2022/2023 citation report, there were 439 enforcement opportunities. Of those, 33% ended with warnings, and of the 293 actual citations issued, only about 66% of tickets were paid. Interstate does not currently send unpaid tickets to collections. 

Russ said that town staff had identified three ways to reduce the subsidy the town pays from its general fund for Interstate’s service: the town could tighten up on parking regulation enforcements, generating more revenue from citations; change the permitted parking zone grace period from two hours to one hour; and/or charge for residential parking permits which are currently free.  

Russ said the overall effect of the parking management program so far has increased parking more along Elk Avenue and reduced parking demand in residential areas, giving residents more available parking. Interstate reported that post-management implementation, Elk Avenue parking is now overall operating at between 75% to 95% full and enforcing two-hour parking has allowed more cars to find a place to park. 

Next, Russ discussed the wintertime overparked hot spots around town based on residential complaints and observations. This includes the neighborhood around the Teocalli Avenue bus stop surrounding the Four-Way parking lot. Councilmember Anna Fenerty said she believes the area around the CB Nordic Center is also a hot spot, although no complaints have been filed. Councilmember Kent Cowherd added that Whiterock Avenue is experiencing high parking demand on big ski days.

All of these hot spots could be potential areas to add permitted parking with the grace period as well.

Last, Russ invited the council to discuss converting some head-in parking at Fifth Street to parallel parking to improve pedestrian, bicycle and vehicle safety, as identified in the council’s Transportation Mobility Plan. He also asked them to consider extending parking enforcement in residential areas to the end of September.

The council generally agreed to tighten up on many of these measures, but mayor Ian Billick brought up his own framework of committing to moving away from cars and referred to it as “change management.” 

“The sequencing we want to go through and how we do that is really important. If we move too fast and we make big mistakes, it’s going to set us back a long time,” he said. “I know I would like to see our community less focused on cars,” he continued, but emphasized the need to make progress without creating other problems. 

Billick suggested extending enforcement through September and limiting parking to two hours around the Four-Way lot, but not limiting parking times at the Four-Way lot itself, knowing that skiers use that parking and that might be too drastic at first.

Council members agreed to extending enforcement through September and being more aggressive with fine collections and possibly revenue sharing with Interstate to increase the company’s incentive to better collect fines. 

Cowherd said he was not entirely comfortable with asking that more citations be issued. “I’m not a big fan of more tickets equals more revenue,” he said. 

“The philosophy is more tickets means more people on buses,” said Russ.

They also discussed the repercussions of removing the head-in parking at Fifth Street before deciding to go ahead with it. 

Fenerty asked what businesses would likely say about the concept. 

“They’re going to complain,” answered Russ. 

She asked about library parking. 

“It’s going to be reduced,” he answered.

Billick said he was okay with discouraging cars and reducing the parking there, despite the discomfort at first. The rest of the council was in agreement. 

After extensive discussion, council members also agreed to reduce the grace period to one hour rather than two in the residential areas. Councilmember Jason MacMillan expressed some initial concerns about people eating at restaurants on Elk and having to move their cars, but conceded that as long as Elk still allowed two hour parking, the neighborhood areas of Sopris and Maroon could be reduced to one hour.

The council was not yet ready to expand permitted parking and begin enforcing the bus stops along Whiterock but agreed that they would keep a close eye on all bus stops for the potential to do so in the future. One of the main concerns was that residents in those bus stop areas want to have friends over, and that the issue should be vetted with residents before making a decision.

Council directed staff to hold off on signing a new contract with Interstate for at least a few weeks in the event that they hear feedback from community members after their meeting. They will make a final decision at a regular meeting in April, either April 1 or April 15. 

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