Town of Vail likely to start charging for overnight parking in the summer
By the numbers
1,200: Approximate capacity of the Vail Village parking structure.
1,000: Approximate capacity of the Lionshead Village parking structure.
$150,000: Approximate cost of 24-hour summer staffing at the structures.
2020: Expected opening of Vail Health hospital’s new parking structure.
Source: Town of Vail
This story has been corrected to more accurately reflect the actions of the Vail Parking Task Force.
VAIL — There are generally a couple of sure things that take place after Vail Mountain closes: It will probably snow at some point in May, and parking is free in Vail’s parking structures. One of those things is going to change — sort of.
The Vail Town Council at its Tuesday, March 6, meeting approved a set of recommendations from the town’s parking task force. The recommendations cover a number of topics, particularly regarding public transit. The big one, though, is about parking.
Under the recommendations, day parking in the structures will remain free. But the town will start charging for overnight stays. Just what that charge will be will probably be set at the council’s Tuesday, March 20, meeting.
The goal of the overnight charges is to free up 100 to 200 spaces per night.
Many of those spaces in the summer are occupied by locals who use the structures as seasonal storage for cars.
The overnight charges are an attempt to change that. In addition, officers will start ticketing cars in June.
The problem is widespread in the structures.
“The day the mountain closes there’s 200 cars in the structures and they don’t leave until November,” council member and task force member Jen Mason said. “The numbers are staggering.”
Lots of stored cars
To get an idea of the extent of the problem, town officials several times over last summer counted cars in the structures between 4 and 5 a.m. On one of those car-count expeditions, there were 511 cars in the two structures at 4 a.m.
Some of those cars belong to overnight guests. Most belong to locals.
To help cut the number of vehicles stored at the structure, the has been asked to adjust the current 14-day maximum stay in the structure before a vehicle is considered abandoned.
While overnight charges are coming, council members said they want to continue the current winter program for those who take a bus or other ride home after a night on the town. People can get a free-parking voucher from the information centers at the structures the morning after a night out.
Council members also said they’d like to establish some sort of voucher program for lodges that don’t have their own parking and refer their guests to the structures.
While lodges generally tell their guests they can get by without cars in the winter, summer guests are different, primarily because most are driving from the Front Range. Summer activities also tend to be more spread out across the valley or beyond.
How much the overnight charge will be has yet to be determined. Council member Travis Coggin suggested staying with the winter-season overnight fee of $50. Council member Jenn Bruno asked if that charge could be just as effective at $20 or so.
Town Manager Greg Clifton said he believes it won’t take a $50 charge to stop overnight parking.
Ultimately, Bruno said, the charge is intended to stop car storage.
“It’s a big step for us to charge anything for the summer,” Bruno said, adding that the final program has to be “something the community will agree isn’t being punitive, but being fair.”
A winter app?
In addition to the summer changes, the council also discussed hiring a developer to work on an app to provide information on private parking during the winter.
Town public works director Greg Hall told the council the app is a lot like Airbnb, but for parking.
Using that app — which could be ready by next ski season — someone driving into town could view an inventory of private parking spaces available, along with rates, and reserve that space for the day.
Mayor Dave Chapin, who’s also a task force member, said the app has “unbelievable potential” to ease Vail’s chronic winter parking crunch.
Mason said there’s plenty of private parking available in the winter, thanks to the continued push for winter guests to leave their cars at home. Mason said she’s been told that the underground structure at the Antlers Lodge is only half full for much of the winter.
The town will have to adjust its codes to allow that app to function legally.
While the council will probably set charges and other rules March 20, one resident urged a different approach.
Vail business owner Jonathan Staufer urged the council to simply charge for summer parking.
Free parking now “is detrimental to the summer experience,” Staufer said. “A guy who’s willing to pay $10 is willing to eat and shop.”
Vail Chamber & Business Association Director Alison Wadey disagreed. Wadey, who’s been to most of the task force meetings, said the town should focus on incentives to carpool, use transit or bike to work in the summer.
“There are fun things Vail could do instead of charging for (summer) parking,” Wadey said.
Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at 970-748-2930, firstname.lastname@example.org and @scottnmiller.