VAIL - When the Vail Town Council passed rules to cut traffic congestion, they promised transportation companies a "discussion" session.
Tuesday they got it, and Vail Police Chief Dwight Henninger spent 1 1/2 hours in the crosshairs.
Basically, Vail's new regulations are two-fold:
1. If you're a commercial passenger transportation company doing business in Vail, you need a $50 permit for each of your vehicles.
2. The spots you can pick up and drop off passengers are limited.
The town says much of the traffic congestion is from commercial vehicles clogging transportation centers and ski and rider drop-off zones.
Business owners claimed the proliferation of transportation companies and shuttle vehicles in the village was causing problems. They demanded that the town council do something about it. On Nov. 6 the council did.
Enforcement started in the middle of December, Henninger said.
The penalties can be stiff for habitual offenders. Three violations and you lose your Vail permit for a week; the fourth violation means you lose your permit for a year.
So far, 501 vehicles have the $50 permit.
Limousine companies complained Tuesday that both the regulations and the way they're being enforced is costing them clients and cash.
Brad Fanger of Vail Coach said the regulations are "totally disregarding the clientele. They want to be picked up and dropped off at the door."
Vail's regulations are modeled after those at the Eagle County Airport, which is serviced by many of the same transportation companies.
There are two causes for Vail's increased traffic congestion, Henninger said.
First, 38 Vail hotels and 10 transportation companies have their own shuttles and courtesy vehicles to transport passengers. A few run regular routes through town, like the town's free bus system does.
Second, a few limousine companies are trying to act like taxi companies and pick up passengers like a cab driver would pick up a fare. That also causes some congestion, Henninger said.
And Colorado's Public Utilities Commission doesn't allow that, Henninger said.
He explained that you get a limo permit by paying a $500 fee and filling out a set of forms with the Colorado Public Utilities Commission, but you do not get to act like a taxi company, which has to pay much higher fees and insurance rates.
A taxi can pick you up anywhere and you don't have to know where you're going until you get in.
To get a ride in a limo, which doesn't have to be a stretch limousine, passengers must have a reservation. The vehicle hauls them from one predetermined spot to another, like a van carrying passengers from a hotel to an airport or restaurant, Henninger said.
Examples flew around the room of drivers claiming they'd been hassled by officers.
One limo driver said he dropped a client at a store to buy a $10,000 mink coat and an officer rolled by and demanded to see a driver's license and registration.
Another said he was ordered to move while waiting for someone on crutches to make way across a hotel parking lot.
"The problems we've had are from people who are not using common sense," Henninger told the crowd. "It's difficult to identify who the problem children are. Now with these permits it should be possible to determine that."
Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 or firstname.lastname@example.org.