Vail Valley Voices: Some parking ideas
Vail, CO Colorado
Editor’s note: The following is an excerpt from the Vail Homeowners Association monthly report in April. We plan to publish weekly excerpts from the association, which keeps a close eye on economic and political trends in and outside the town. The newsletter’s electronic version with links to supporting documents is available at http://www.vailhomeowners.com.
Parking options studied: Over the past year, the town has developed a broad array of options to increase its inventory of public parking. Building new, or expanding existing, parking structures comes with a hefty price tag, some costing as much as $50 million.-Costly new construction is politically beyond reach. It is unlikely that Vail voters would approve any large expenditure.-Pressed on all fronts for new sources of revenue, fee parking along the Frontage Roads could become a long-term revenue source for the town.
Short-term gains potentially long-term losses: There is longstanding community opposition to frontage road parking for reasons of safety, traffic congestion and image. Critics are saying that the town’s “more parking, more revenue” approach is misguided because it ignores the competitive role that the private sector’s inventory of public parking now plays.-There are even those saying that the town of Vail should shed its costs altogether for operating its two large public parking structures by contracting their operation out to private entities.
In recent years Vail has grown to urban densities, which is attracting increasing numbers of consumers who expect urban prices and experiences.-Property values have appreciated to a level where any type of structured parking is a highly valued commodity worthy of private investment.-This, in contrast to the 1970s when the town’s initial parking structures were built; at that time there was limited demand with low return on investment to the private sector.-The public bonded indebtedness that funded the original construction of the town’s two parking structures will be fully retired in 2012. There are those wanting the town to roll over its debt into building more public parking while others want the private sector to take on the responsibility.
Shift parking costs from public to private sector: Any new large-scale private developments that may be constructed in the next decade or so will more than likely continue the practice of building public parking. One development, the proposed Ever Vail mixed-use mountain portal in West Lionshead, will provide an estimated 1,100 parking spaces, more than half of which will be available for public any notion of giving the town ownership of the public parking to be provided in their project.-Some public officials see this as withholding town parking revenues from the town, unless, as some suggest, the town finds a method to impose a sales tax on parking transactions.
Mandates vs. incentives:–If the town adopts the tactic of using paid parking on the frontage roads as an ongoing revenue source, there will be less incentive for private developers to invest in building public parking. In a move that could also result in the dampening of private public parking, the town has begun discussions regarding increasing the amount of required employee parking in new developments.-Some reckon, constrained by the lack of available land and high construction costs, it is less expensive for the town to provide employees with developer-subsidized parking, than it is to build them affordable housing.
Priorities, timing and competition:- There is the potential in the town’s quest for new revenue sources to create difficult contradictions in the conduct of its regulatory “public protection” responsibilities, revenue generation and choices of capital investments. For example, the town has approved moving forward with the study of improvements that add 134 spaces of frontage road parking at Ford Park (Vail’s Central Park), which in turn, creates the opportunity to make other park improvements for a total project cost of $12.4 million. In contrast, the town has yet to decide on building an estimated $15 million Frontage Road/Interstate-70 Simba Run Underpass.-The proposed underpass would create a safe route for employees to cross from their affordable housing project to their jobs, as well as allow for more efficient operations of the town’s commuter bus system.-The town-owned employee housing project is in negotiations to be doubled in size, becoming one of the biggest residential buildings in the community.
The town, in the view of some, lacks the appropriate “wants vs. needs” criteria to rank the importance and timing of its capital investments. Taken another step, they say this is further evidence of the town confusing its role as protector of the public’s welfare and safety with becoming itself an expansive, profit-motivated developer in direct competition with the private sector.-