Vail seeing more overflow parking
Town set to blow past frontage road parking agreements with state transportation department
Something’s gone weird with Vail’s parking system, and town officials aren’t sure what’s causing it.
The town uses parking on South Frontage Road when the town’s Vail Village and Lionshead parking structures fill. That’s been happening a lot this winter.
As of March 2, the frontage roads were used for parking nearly 30 times, and the traditionally busy month is looming.
That could mean some complications with the town’s agreements with the Colorado Department of Transportation, which has jurisdiction over the town’s frontage roads. The town and state agency have agreed to allow 30 days in the six-month seasons that cover winter and summer.
The town in about 2014 completed improvements including shoulder widening at the Safeway store and near Ford Park.
According to an email from Elise Thatcher of the transportation department, “if the town were to consistently go over the number of days defined, the town either needs to define a plan to reduce frontage road parking or (build) additional improvements.” Those improvements could include adding sidewalks adjacent to the parking areas.
Don’t turn away guests
What isn’t on the table is the prospect of banning frontage road parking. That means turning away guests, something no one really wants to see.
Vail drawing a lot of vehicle traffic isn’t unusual. What’s strange is there doesn’t seem to be a correlation between parking and activity on Vail Mountain.
At the March 1 Vail Town Council meeting, Council member Jen Mason noted the anomaly, noting that the mountain was “quiet” Monday, Feb. 28.
Council members and others have long worried about possible accidents from frontage road parking. But the solutions range from elusive to expensive.
Council member Travis Coggin mentioned at the meeting that the town should look into doing away with free two-hour parking on Fridays and weekends, and start charging for parking on Fridays and weekends during the summer.
In a Feb. 28 interview, Council member Kevin Foley said the town needs to talk about adding more structured parking to the town’s inventory. Foley is also a dedicated transit user, and said the valley could use a regional transportation authority.
“Express buses from Eagle and Gypsum would help,” Foley said.
A new task force
Figuring out what’s going on will be one of the jobs of a restructured Vail Parking and Mobility Task Force.
In a Feb. 28 interview, Vail Town Manager Scott Robson said he’d like to see the new task force increase the scope of its work, including finding alternatives to structured parking.
“I’d lilke to mix technology and collaboration with the lodging community before we start building more,” Robson said.
Transportation means more than just vehicles, Robson said. And, like the town’s recently completed short-term rental study, there may be some common conceptions about parking that turn out to be inaccurate.
“We really need to gather much better data,” Robson said.
During the March 1 meeting, Mayor Kim Langmaid said it’s time for the town to have a “robust” parking and mobility group, adding that ultimately, trying to solve current problems means the town can control its own transportation destiny.
Here’s a look at the number of cars parked on Vail’s South Frontage Road Feb. 24-27:
Feb. 24: 546
Feb. 25: 654
Feb. 26: 655
Feb. 27: 303
The town’s Vail Village and Lionshead parking structures also filled Monday through Wednesday, Feb. 28-March 2.