Park that plan
Greg Hall is quoted as saying “the 90-minute, initial free parking period ahead of the “Free after 3′ allowed locals to park as early as 1:30 p.m. and stay for the day for free.”
While that may have been the system in place years ago, for the past several years anyone entering the garages before 3 p.m. is required to pay the same rates, whether they enter before or after 1:30 p.m. – there is no free 90-minute add-on to the “Free at 3” program.
The “Free at 3” program is used by people who wish to join friends for apres ski, shop, or otherwise frequent the businesses in our town. No one coming into the parking structure after 3 p.m. is taking a space that would have gone to a skier, as no one starts their ski day on Vail Mountain after 3 p.m.
In these challenging economic times, further suppressing retail activity in our town is clearly ill advised, and would lead to only minimal increases in parking revenue, as people would simply avoid town in the afternoon and use other downvalley options, where parking is free.
Eliminating the free 90-minute parking would also have significant negative impact on our community.
If you come into the structure at 3:30 p.m. to pick up kids at ski school, and stay 45 minutes, you would owe a dollar under the new proposal. While the cost is not the issue, that guest would now be unable to use the automated exit lanes in the parking structure, and would join the mass of people waiting for an attended lane to pay their parking fee.
A couple of 30-minute waits in line at 4:15 p.m. to exit with hungry and tired kids in the back of the car would quickly convince people that another mountain offers a better choice for their family ski vacation.
Keep the “Free at 3” and 90 minutes of free parking, but use other proposals to obtain additional revenue. Raising the parking fee for passes in both garages to $10 on holidays is smart, as is making every Friday, all of the President’s Birthday Week and, possibly, the middle weeks in March “holidays.”
The top rate for all-day parking should also go up a buck or two, and off-site parking should be encouraged. In addition, there should be a $5 charge for parking on Frontage Road when the structures are full. Parking meters would not be required.
All that is needed are strategically placed vending machines that sell daily parking passes for placement in the front of the car – a system that works well in Aspen and other towns. Convenient parking is key to the economic health and survival of our community. These decisions have significant impact and should not be made on the basis on erroneous information and without proper consideration to their impact on those of us who live here and on our valued guests.