Vail will charge $25 for summer overnight parking from June to September, with some exceptions | VailDaily.com

Vail will charge $25 for summer overnight parking from June to September, with some exceptions

After years of totally free parking in the summer, town of Vail officials are ready to start charging those who stay overnight in the summer. The goal, officials say, is to cut down on seasonal vehicle storage in the summer.

VAIL — A program to charge for summer overnight parking will probably be a money-loser for the town. But opening up more spaces is worth the cost, officials say.

The Vail Town Council on Tuesday, March 20, set in motion a plan that will result in the first-ever charges for summer parking. In this case, the charges will be assessed only for overnight parking — with some exceptions.

The Vail Parking and Transportation Task Force over the past year or so has evaluated the town's parking inventory and who's using it. That research revealed that summer car storage and other overnight parking can sometimes take up a significant percent of the 2,200 spaces at the Vail Village and Lionshead parking structures. A survey conducted in August 2017 showed an average of 324 cars parked in the structures between 4 and 5 a.m. That average spiked to 424 cars per night on weekends.

Combine that use with the town's increasing popularity in the summer, as well as the impending closure of Vail Health Hospital's parking structure — a rebuild that will take away the hospital's spaces until 2020 — and pressure from construction parking, and it's become common for the structures to fill quickly in the summer.

Lodge guests use parking

Part of the summer parking crunch comes from lodges and condos that have either limited or no on-site parking.

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Since those people will presumably spend money in Vail, town officials will create a voucher program for guests. Hotels with adequate parking that send guests to the structures to save money on hotel parking fees won't be able to participate in the voucher program.

The town will also exempt employees working overnight or late-night shifts.

"This whole policy is a way to create spaces for visitors," council member Jenn Bruno said. "The last thing we want to do is penalize overnight guests."

In addition to guests and late-shift workers, people who find another way home after a night on the town can also avoid the overnight fees by stopping in at the welcome centers at the Village or Lionshead structures.

As in the winter, people who come to the welcome centers in the structures by 11 a.m. can receive a voucher to waive the overnight parking fee.

The program will also require the town to hire people to staff the collection booths for the four-month summer program (June through September). Labor and benefits will account for about $136,000 of the program's $160,000 cost.

Those employees will check tickets issued at the town's kiosks. As in previous years, those parked in the daytime will park for free. Those who have parking passes from the current winter season can use those passes instead of taking tickets.

In addition to questions about leaving a car instead of driving under the influence, Seth Levy, a local limo driver, also asked about parking for those who take the Bustang bus service from the Vail Valley to Denver.

For downvalley residents, the Bustang stops in Eagle. For others, council member Greg Moffet suggested a voucher program for people who drive to take the Bustang from Vail — that idea may have to wait, though.

Some hiccups expected

While officials expect some hiccups in the program's first year, council member Jen Mason, who was a member of the parking task force, reminded other council members that summer and winter visitors can travel in different ways.

"In the winter, people come and ski. Those guests don't really need cars," Mason said. "In the summer, people are driving around," she added.

And, Mason noted, at least one lodge — the Evergreen — also has capacity problems in the summer and charges guests who bring more than one car.

Summer guests are also more likely to come and stay on the spur of the moment, Mason said. Recalling the years she spent in the town's welcome center, Mason said guests sometimes would stop for a break from driving and decide to spend a night.

Those people will still be able to park overnight for free. For those who stash their cars for the summer, the days of free storage end on June 1.

Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at 970-748-2930, smiller@vaildaily.com and @scottnmiller.

By the numbers

$25: Per-night cost of overnight parking this summer.

2,200: Total spaces in the Vail Village and Lionshead parking structures.

$160,000: Estimated staffing cost for the summer program.

4 months: Program’s duration: June through September.

Source: Town of Vail