Vail Valley Voices: Vail’s surge of shuttles
Editor’s note: The following is an excerpt from the Vail Homeowners Association monthly report. We publish weekly excerpts from the association, which keeps a close eye on economic and political trends in and outside of the town. The newsletter electronic version with links to supporting documents is available at http://www.vailhomeowners.comThe growth in the number of hotel shuttles has already outgrown the town’s planned hotel shuttle drop-off and pickup at Lionshead. Upwards of 16 shuttles have been counted dropping off in a five-minute period near the new Lionshead Welcome Center recently. To handle this unexpected demand, engineers have proposed a street side hotel shuttle staging area that is nearly half the length of the Lionshead parking structure. These same shuttles have a circuit that includes Golden Peak and its adjacent neighborhoods such as east Vail Village, where there are also a limited number of shuttle parking spaces. According to neighbors, the peak hour scrum of shuttles and private vehicles has become particularly difficult at Parker Plaza on Hanson Ranch Road. Turning blind eyes is not working: Enforcement authorities equipped with truck-mounted variable message electronic signs to direct traffic around trouble spots and a system of high-tech Department of Defense-grade closed-circuit television cameras to monitor the streets have proven unable to temper the congestion or the behavior of traffic blockers. Manpower availability, budgets, competing priorities and not wanting to put enforcement personal in the middle of traffic quarrels are perhaps the reasons why authorities keep a low profile in the congested areas. Vail Resorts at their two Golden Peak parking lots provide parking attendants. These attendants are limited in their power to direct traffic or unsnarl blockages when they occur on the public streets. Blockages often occur at intersections beyond their immediate jurisdiction and are the responsibility of the town of Vail to enforce. A periodic show of police presence may have a positive effect by spreading the word that violations that block traffic are not acceptable. What has been done: It has been 15 years since a comprehensive reassessment has been given to the infrastructure need to manage Golden Peak traffic issues. The Homeowners Association has worked on this issue since the early 1990s, beginning with the redevelopment of the Golden Peak base facilities. Traffic congestion issues were to be reviewed annually by a standing committee with necessary traffic management fixes made prior to the following winter season. The committee was to include the town of Vail, Vail Resorts and representative neighborhood property owners. The existence of the committee has been episodic and as congestion issues arose, some of the fixes recommended have not always met the expectations of the neighborhood. In the meantime, successful ski mountain-related programs have increased in activity. The town of Vail recently reformed the committee at the urging of the association and other concerned parties.Town Council recently granted a rezoning to the Ski & Snowboard Club Vail site allowing for more intensive use. The club says it intends to build a facility to accommodate the needs of 600 racers, 100 coaches and residential condominiums to finance the entire project. Until provided with a development plan to the contrary, neighbors remain skeptical that the 11,000-square-foot site has enough area to accommodate sufficient parking and traffic circulation to support the intended uses. It is doubtful that Vail Resorts will allow the use of its nearby parking lots for the club’s purposes. In the meantime, according to the Town Council, efforts will be made to address the neighborhood’s concerns over traffic congestion. Vail Resorts in recent years has made extensive investment in improving on-mountain ski racing and snowboard competitive facilities at Golden Peak. A major temporary stadium will be constructed near the Golden Peak base lodge for race and ceremonial events held in conjunction with the 2015 World Alpine Championships. The Golden Peak ski base specializes in children and young adult skiing, snowboarding and racing instructions. Its traffic circulation layout was designed so that parents could easily drop off and pick up their children. The success of these programs is increasing as Vail’s popularity as a family resort grows. While some parents chauffeuring their children to the Golden Peak ski school and racing programs expect front door delivery and pick up, other skiers with equipment in hand and children in tow make the two and half block long trek from the Vail Village Parking Structure to the lifts. Sidewalks are narrow, and critical sections are not snow melted; the number and location of crosswalks are not adequate for the volume of pedestrians making the journey more arduous than need be.Then there are those who, rather than use designated drop-off areas in Vail Resorts’ parking lots, pull to the side of the road, park illegally and unhurriedly don their ski gear. Others just stop where they please, blocking traffic because there is no traffic officer to move them along.No cheap silver bullets or quick fixes available; what can be done? It is expected that the extensive transportation infrastructure that is planned for in the Ever Vail development proposed for west Lionshead will eventually relieve some of the traffic congestion pressure at Golden Peak. Beyond major tweaking the traffic management operational policies for Golden Peak, the town of Vail could sooner or later be faced with expenditures for capital projects to bring relief to the area, such as a major new vehicular bridge and connector street linking Vail Valley Drive with the South Frontage Road on the east side of Ford Park. Until the town is able to further improve conditions, the neighborhood property owners should not be faulted for their skepticism about projects that do not provide a plan as to how they will not worsen traffic congestion. Such is the neighborhood’s concern with the rezoning and redevelopment of the Ski & Snowboard Club Vail project.