Parking abusers beware
Motorists who abuse Vail’s parking system this winter – some by moving their cars too often, and others who don’t move them often enough – should be aware they’re being watched.
Ordinance No. 26, passed by the Vail Town Council last week, seeks to penalize people who skirt the rules when they park their cars in the town’s parking garages, where rates have been hiked this year.
A new violation has been added to the town code making it unlawful to park in a “time-limited” space for longer than the specified amount of time “irrespective how the amount of money is deposited into the parking management system.” The fine for the first violation has been set at $50, up from $26.
“We’re trying to keep people out of the short-term shopper parking spaces, so shoppers can park there,” says Mike Rose, the town’s transportation director. “A lot of people have been just blowing it off, because there was no real incentive not to.”
Signs will be posted at every short-term shopper parking space, which are located outside on the top floor of the Vail Village garage and cost $3 for three hours. Those spaces are monitored by an electronic system that won’t even accept more money once the allotted time has expired. The aim is not to generate revenue for the town, but to have those spaces turn over as often as possible, making them available to other shoppers.
“The signs will make that pretty clear,” Rose says.
Along with the new fine for violating the short-term parking rules is a 50 percent hike in the penalty for illegally using space reserved for the handicapped, up from $50 to $75.
No more “turning’
Another new violation makes it unlawful to park in the structures for a free period of time – this winter it will be an hour and a half – leave the structure, then return within three hours of the first entry.
“There’s some obvious folks who do it over and over. This gives my supervisors the authority to do something about it,” says Rose. “When they see that obviously going on, they’ll tell them to stop it. But we’re not going to be overly aggressive about it.”
For this violation, known as “turning,” the fine is still being worked out, although the ordinance amends the town code to allow the municipal court system to levy fines for illegal parking up to $100.
“You just never know, with human nature, what people will do. Most people try to follow the law,” says Municipal Judge Buck Allen, who sets the fines and spends a certain amount of his time every week in court dealing with parking violators. “I really do go for the lowest fine that accomplishes the goal.”
Allen says he’s unsure how serious the “turning” problem really is – and neither is Rose, who helped draft the ordinance.
“Do I stay up nights worrying about it? No,” says Rose. “It’s not a huge problem, but it’s happening more and more, and unfortunately it’s folks who work in town.”
Nicole Hoffmann-Ewing, who manages the Rucksack in Vail Village and the General Store in Lionshead, is a member of the town’s Parking Task Force, which studies parking in Vail and makes recommendations to the Town Council as to what actions can be taken, such as drafting new ordinances. She says she was unaware the practice of “turning” was a problem until she came on board.
“It was more of a problem last year, when you couldn’t park for free until 5 p.m.,” she says. “Now, with Free After Three, I don’t see it as a problem.”
Hoffmann-Ewing, however, says she never has supported drafting what she calls “unnecessary legislation.”
“It gets real muddy. I mean, how would they know if a driver is just going to the post office or bank?” she says. “Sure, there’s always a few people who abuse any system. But do we have to pass an ordinance?”
Merchant says education beats legislation
By Stephen Lloyd Wood
Dan Telleen owns Karats, a jewelry store on East Meadow Drive, across the street from the village garage. He questions how productive it can be for a “turner,” in this case an employee of a business in town, to be leaving the workplace every hour and half to avoid parking fees.
“I’m sure there are a few people who do that, but imagine running a store or being a line cook in a restaurant and having the time every hour or so and move your car,” says Telleen.
A veritable crusader on parking issues, Telleen waged a highly-publicized battle with the town in 2000, claiming town employees were parking town vehicles in prime spots in the garages – sometimes for days at a time. He even purposely got a parking ticket so he could go to court and argue in front of Judge Buck Allen the situation was driving him “crazy” and he was “innocent by reason of insanity.” While things have improved since then, he says, his point remains the same.
“The real problem is keeping parking from being a big hurdle for those people staying in Beaver Creek or Cordillera and want to come to Vail, have lunch at Sweet Basil and do some shopping,” he says. “There are some spaces that need to turn over, making it easy for those kinds of tourists to find a good spot.”
Telleen agrees with Nicole Hoffmann-Ewing, a member of the town’s parking task force, in calling yet another ordinance on the books more of an “irritation” than anything else.
It’s never going to solve Vail’s parking problems, he says. Rather, the town should consider other ways to encourage better parking behavior on behalf of town workers – even local skiers – to make Vail more shopper-friendly, ultimately generating more sales-tax revenues, he says.
“Typically, by the time shoppers arrive in the late morning, employees and skiers have taken all the good spaces. This is more like a flea bite on an elephant,” he says of the new ordinance. “We need to start a campaign of education, not legislation.”
Parking alternatives this season
Stephen Lloyd Wood
In addition to revising the town’s parking ordinance, several options for daytime parking in Vail have been either added or modified for this winter season. They include:
– Adding 160 new spaces at the West Day Lot, west of the Marriott Mountain Resort and Spa in Lionshead, to the public-parking inventory. Ski company employees who used to park there now will park across the Frontage Road at the company’s maintenance yard, which is being retrofitted for that purpose.
– Workers, as well as skiers and snowboarders, also will be able to park free in various locations throughout town, such as along stretches of the North Frontage Road in West Vail, Red Sandstone Park, Stephens Park and the trail head at the East Vail interchange. Most of those areas are near bus stops.
– The Town Council also has made way for more free parking – and more parking spaces in general – in the public garages by allowing an hour and a half of free parking, as well as free parking in both garages after 3 p.m.
– Paid parking, however, is going to cost more than last season, with regular, hourly parking rates increasing significantly – double in some cases – at the two parking garages. For example, the rate for parking all day – from six to 24 hours – has been hiked from $13 to $16.