CB to restrict or remove another 150+ parking spaces

Two-hour grace period stays

By Mark Reaman 

The Crested Butte town council has stepped back from one parking regulation recommendation being considered this month and agreed to implement three others. The council on Monday also decided to accelerate its focus on the idea and implementation of an intercept parking lot near Brush Creek Road.

Instead of clamping down and returning to a one-hour parking restriction on Sopris and Maroon Avenues in the heart of downtown, the council agreed to keep the so-called “grace period” at two hours. Town will expand that two-hour parking restriction with the same neighborhood parking permit system to the areas around the Teocalli and Sixth Mountain Express bus stop and around the Four-Way Visitor’s Center parking lot. That decision will impact about 150 parking spaces, making them hard to use for people taking the bus to ski the resort. Parking in the area of Fifth Street north of Elk Avenue will go from being head-in spots to parallel parking this summer which will reduce the available parking spots on that block from 19 to nine. The council also instructed staff to maintain a small-town soft touch when enforcing parking regulations but dial up overall parking enforcement — especially with people parking illegally in ADA spaces — and not be so small-town nice when it comes to collecting ticket fines. They want the money collected.

Council spent well over an hour Monday discussing the proposals that will go into effect this summer and the winter of 2024/25. “The transportation plan is very complex and ongoing,” Crested Butte community development director Troy Russ told the council while outlining the various ways town has solicited public feedback on transportation planning, including parking. “We know parking management works if you want to change people’s actions.”

Stats

While the two-hour versus one-hour parking grace period discussion centered on situations like people using Sopris and Maroon Avenues to park for dinner, the bus stop parking restrictions are geared to push more people out of parking in those nearby neighborhoods during ski season and to either start using RTA buses, head to the school parking lot or drive up to the ski area. 

Fewer than 66% of the tickets issued are paid and this has led to town subsidizing Interstate, the company that manages the town parking, with about $60,000 annually. 

Russ provided statistics showing that 10% of the people using the Four-Way parking lot are town residents, 33% come from north of CB to park there, while 55% using the Four-Way come from south of town. Most use the Four-Way parking lot as a park-and-ride to catch the Mountain Express to the ski area. He said that while the RTA has increased service substantially over the last few years and ridership has also expanded, 65% of the seats remain available on the 82 daily one-way trips up and down the valley in the winter. “There is still a lot of capacity on the RTA buses,” he said. “The bus was full 38 times or just 2.6% between November 22 and March 12 of this season.”

To discourage people from parking in neighborhoods to catch the Mountain Express, Russ said the proposal to limit parking time in the neighborhoods to two hours would convert about 148 public on-street spaces to the “permit-only” status starting in December. There are approximately 124 spaces on Butte and Teocalli Avenues between Fifth and Seventh Streets and 24 around the Four-Way on Maroon and Elk Avenues. Given snow storage, in an average winter there are usually about 115 parking spots in the Visitor’s Center lot.

He noted that when the outdoor seating on Elk Avenue was implemented, it took away parking spaces, but town sales tax has only gone up, indicating that restaurant and retails shops have not been hurt because of a decrease in parking availability. He did say that from 2018 to 2022, there were 149 “parking-related crashes” in town.

Russ told the council that “Vail (CBMR) has taken the initiative to have a parking discussion with the local stakeholders” and the school has agreed to work with the town and provide some use of its parking lot for overflow parking. He said the Mountain Express could possibly provide a connection to the school lot on busy days. Town manager Dara MacDonald said Vail has improved its capacity to communicate with its customers and could better direct them to the school parking at needed times, most likely on busy Saturdays. 

“FirstTracks in Mt. CB is a gamechanger,” Russ told the council, noting that 92.5% of Mt. CB is now within 500-feet of transit access. “People used to drive to the base area and park for skiing but now they can easily get a ride from their home. To say there are no alternatives (if town implements these measures) is not fair. Mountain Express and the RTA have made big investments.”

Councilmember Jason MacMillan said that given people’s perception and experience, a family of four in a place like CB South would rather drive than attempt the RTA. 

“They can park at the Four-Way,” said Russ.

“Is the RTA bus more challenging for the family than the Mountain Express,” asked councilmember Beth Goldstone. 

“I’d say yes,” said councilmember Anna Fenerty.

Given the chances of an RTA bus being crowded and the scheduling, MacMillan said that was probably true. “The RTA does not provide a trailer bus on busy days,” he said. “Mountain Express feels less risky. I think this will push more people up the mountain.”

“Is this pushing the RTA to not just be a commuter bus but more of a ski bus,” asked mayor Ian Billick. “Are there ways to think creatively and discuss what service we are providing and look at more ways to be effective, especially on powder days or busy weekends?”

Be aware of unintended consequences

Laura Puckett Daniels, a Gunnison County commissioner representing the North Valley and a resident of Mt. Crested Butte, spoke to the council as a private citizen. “The discussion tonight highlights the complexity of the issue. Remember that a push here could mean a reaction there. There will probably be some unintended consequences,” she said.

Puckett Daniels asked council to understand that most residents in the upper valley consider themselves part of the Crested Butte community and CB is the commercial and social hub. She recounted an incident when she tried to find a parking space at the Four-Way for a doctor’s visit during a weekday afternoon. There were none available, so she parked in the neighborhood.

“There are sometimes bus options. There are sometimes bike options. There are sometimes car options. There are tradeoffs with all the options,” she said. “For me to drive to town takes seven minutes. To ride a bus takes 30 minutes. Most people won’t choose the option that takes four times the time. There are situations when people will need to drive. I’d encourage providing adequate parking in town for more than two hours. 

“I agree with the town’s goals, but I urge you to also see the other side,” said Puckett Daniels.

She said the overall community is willing to work on providing the transportation infrastructure to accommodate people. “A word of caution though,” she said. “Please invest in that infrastructure before or during when making these changes. Choices have both intended and unintended consequences.”

Addressing traffic from the south

Councilmember Mallika Magner said the people not living near the CB South bus stop probably are inclined to drive into town and not catch the RTA once the car is scraped and warmed up in the winter. MacMillan said the lack of CB South parking spaces at the bus stop is an issue as well. He said the town plan is taking away parking spaces with the expectation that more people will fill up the RTA buses. “But the RTA is not a great option all the time for people,” he said. “It’s not as big an arrow in the quiver as it sounds.”

Russ said his statistics indicated the 7:26 a.m. bus seemed to be the RTA’s busy weekend “powder day bus” and he suggested the RTA could perhaps schedule a bus 15 minutes after that one. “We’re not planning the RTA operations but now is a good time to ask these questions as they start their strategic plan,” he said. “With this action, some people may use the RTA, some may park at the school, some may go up to CBMR. We don’t want our neighborhoods to carry the brunt.”

MacDonald said most parking pressure comes during “powder events” so she said there should be plenty of parking available most weekdays at the Four-Way.

“Should we be thinking of an intercept lot at the Brush Creek parcel,” asked Billick, in reference to the 13-acre property along Brush Creek Road near Highway 135 co-owned by Crested Butte, CBMR, the county and Mt. Crested Butte. “That seems like a long-term piece of the puzzle. Can we be more aggressive with that?”

Councilmember Gabi Prochaska agreed it would be beneficial to be more proactive in pursuing such an option.

MacDonald said an intercept lot in that location has long been discussed by the property owners. She said it was part of the RTA’s five-year plan and expected it to happen if and when a realignment happens with a potential roundabout in that area, primarily as part of the proposed Whetstone affordable housing project.

 Puckett Daniels said the county has applied for grants to make that realignment happen so effort is being made in that direction.

Billick said given the funding situation, everyone should check in on the realignment progress in six months.

Go ahead and order dessert!

MacMillan reiterated his opinion that the two-hour parking grace period should be retained in neighborhoods that require parking permits. “A lot of people use it,” he said. “It is inconvenient to go to dinner and have to think about moving your car after an hour. I’m in favor of keeping it at two-hour parking.”

Fenerty said she wanted the restrictions tightened to a one-hour grace period.

Prochaska said she would be in favor of a two-hour parking limit but wanted to see better effort at enforcement and collection of parking fines.

Billick said he has spent a lot of time walking the area and has seen more cars parking on those side streets than there are available spots on Elk Avenue during the dinner hours. “I’m conflicted but I would tend to leave it at a two-hour grace period since it is working. Our energy could be focused on the intercept lot south of town.”

Aside from Fenerty, the rest of the council agreed with that position to varying degrees so there will be no change in official policy on that issue.

Councilmember Kent Cowherd said ticket fines should be collected but he didn’t like the idea of tighter enforcement in general. “It leaves a bad taste in my mouth,” he said.

“I’m okay with Crested Butte’s soft touch with ticketing but they should write tickets when they are deserved,” said MacMillan.

All the council members said ADA spaces should not be used illegally and they should be ticketed when appropriate every time.

Town will implement the two-hour parking limit near the Teocalli and Four-Way Mountain Express bus stops along Sixth Street next winter. They agreed to closely monitor the impacts of the changes so they can quickly address any issues that arise.

“One reason I’m in favor of this is that it sends a clear signal to our partners that this is the direction the town is headed,” said Billick, explaining it could help push forward talks of transportation infrastructure like the Brush Creek intercept lot.

“These moves go forward with what we said we were going to do,”agreed Goldstone. “Parking is a problem but not yet a major problem. Addressing it now is a good thing to do.”

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