Vail Daily column: Parking struggles continue
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.com.
The town has struggled to keep pace with the demand for parking, as study upon study has shown that there is still a deficit of 1,000 public parking spaces, even after hundreds of public spaces have been built in private developments as part of the Vail Renaissance building boom. The result has been increasing use of the Frontage Road as a primary parking venue, with the associated problems of overcrowding and public safety. The town’s draft of its “areas of focus” largely ignores this problem, recommending only improving the convenience and efficiency of parking by, for example, conducting focus groups and constructing a new Lionshead entry and skier drop-off (to supposedly improve what was just constructed two years ago). But these actions will not solve the parking problem and much more attention should be directed to this problem because the solution will not be simple or easy.
Some see the proposed development of Ever Vail as at least a partial solution since Vail Resorts has planned nearly 1,200 parking spaces to be included in the project, with many of those spaces to be reserved for public parking. The project also includes extensive facilities for public transportation buses and a transfer facility for private vehicular passengers. However, negotiations on the development are currently stalled because of VRI’s position that, because these are facilities that service the public, the town should rebate to VRI the tax revenues gained from the development to pay for the cost of constructing these facilities. Moreover, the economy has put the project on the back burner and it is now many years away, so Ever Vail should not be considered as even part of a near-term solution.
Likewise, the construction of a new town municipal building affords no near-term solution. The proposed redevelopment of the municipal building had projected a public parking component, but that project collapsed and the current draft of town initiatives only mentions that the council should “determine future of new town hall.” As a result, even though some continue to call for immediate action, any redevelopment of the town municipal building is probably still years away, even though there are council persons insisting that it proceed sooner.
During recent years, the town has shifted responsibility to build more public parking onto private developers whenever new projects are constructed. Some private developers, such as the Solaris, see the profitability in building excess public parking. Likewise, some of the new, large, residential hotels offer valet parking to day-skiers and visitors who patronize their restaurants and other on-site services. But this is a tail-chasing-the-dog solution as new development brings more traffic and more parking demand. Whether private developers can ever fill the gap is very questionable.
Recently, the town has created designated areas of free parking on the North Frontage Road and paved major segments of the South Frontage Road shoulders to accommodate overflow parking. The town’s draft of the “areas of focus” plan calls for the completion of shoulder widening and paving on the Frontage Road in 2014. But adding and improving Frontage Road parking doesn’t result in an improved guest experience. To the contrary, some see it as a hazard to public safety and a visual eyesore. The town could put an end to overcrowding by banning Frontage Road parking and charging variable parking rates (to control overcrowding) in the municipal parking structures, not only for peak days during winter, but during the summer as well. It remains to be seen, however, whether the Vail community would support such measures.
The Vail community could advance the long-term solution of its Interstate 70 accessibility and parking dilemma by given serious support to the ongoing effort to expand the number of flights servicing the Eagle County destination guest markets. Providing leadership in that regard is currently in the draft focus plan, but with no specific proposed actions. Authorities in charge of the airport have recently presented for public review and comment a proposed master plan that has been in preparation during the past few years. Recent reports indicate that funding for expansion of air service may be proposed to come from an increase in sales and lodging taxes. This is an area in which the town could step up and provide valuable input.
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