Vail will return to two-hour free parking for the 2018-19 ski season
By the numbers
2: Hours of free parking returns to Vail’s main parking structures.
$10: Cost of parking from two to three hours.
120: Daily spaces available at the new Red Sandstone structure.
$450: Cost of a Red Sandstone structure season pass.
Source: Town of Vail
VAIL — Parking rates rose for the first time in a decade for the 2017-18 ski season. The biggest complaints, though, revolved around the loss of 30 minutes of free parking.
The Vail Town Council at its Tuesday, Oct. 16, meeting approved a rate structure for the 2018-19 ski season. There were only two big changes: setting a pass price for the new Red Sandstone parking structure and a return to two hours of free parking.
The council approval came on the heels of a recommendation from the Vail Parking and Transportation Task Force.
That group, created in 1999, was revived a few years ago to look into ways to make better use of the town’s parking areas. The group includes representatives from town government, the community at large, the business community, Vail Resorts and Vail Health.
More free parking
At the last task force meeting, the group recommended a return to two-hour free parking in the Vail Village and Lionshead Village parking structures. Vail Public Works Director Greg Hall told council members that the recommendation about free parking — which was reduced to 90 minutes last season — was based in large part on results of a community survey.
During council discussion of the proposal, council member Jenn Bruno acknowledged that dropping free parking to 90 minutes created some unintended consequences. That included affecting children’s story time at the Vail Public Library, since many parents ended up having to pay for parking.
The 90-minute parking rule was adopted in an attempt to keep employees and others from “looping” — leaving the structure before their free parking expired and then circling back in for another two hours.
Mayor Dave Chapin, chairman of the parking task force, said the parking staff believes it can handle the problem this season.
Chapin added that he appreciates the community comments about free parking.
“It’s great when the community comes out and gets involved,” Chapin said.
Council members also mostly agreed with the idea to have pass-only parking at the Red Sandstone structure at Red Sandstone Elementary School. That structure — a joint project among the town, Vail Resorts and Eagle County Schools — is nearly complete and expected to open Friday, Nov. 16. That’s Vail Mountain’s scheduled Opening Day.
The new structure will have 160 total spaces, with 120 of those spaces open to the public Monday through Friday. The structure will be accessible by pass only. Those passes will only be sold to employees of businesses licensed in Vail Village and Lionshead Village.
The task force set the Red Sandstone season price at $450, in an attempt to lure employees out of the Lionshead Village structure. In theory, that should open more spaces for skiers.
Is parking too cheap?
Echoing his comments from last year, council member Greg Moffet said he still believes the town’s Pink pass — a $200 pass for employees limited to gated lots at Ford Park and the town’s soccer field — should be more expensive.
Moffet noted that the Pink pass is cheaper than a pass on Eagle County’s ECO Transit system.
“We’re encouraging people to drive,” he said. “The public transportation system should be good enough that nobody needs it.”
On other hand, council member Jenn Bruno noted that many Pink pass buyers work multiple jobs and need their cars to get to those jobs. And the Ford Park and soccer field lots are only full 15 to 20 days per year, she added.
“I’m not objecting,” Moffet said. “But it doesn’t make sense.”
While Vail maintained stable parking rates for a decade, Chapin noted the council can always adjust rates in response to supply and demand.
“If there’s an opportunity to make (the system) better one way or another, we’ll do it,” he said.
Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at email@example.com and 970-748-2930.