Vail Daily column: It’s past time for a solution
Editor’s note: The following is an excerpt from a report by the Vail Homeowners Association board of directors.
A comprehensive parking plan must deal with on-street parking and its related public safety, congestion and aesthetics issues. There seems to be consensus that it is only a matter of time before there will be a serious accident. Slowing speeds and putting in pedestrian crosswalks are Band-Aids; they increase congestion by backing traffic up during commuter rush hours. Congestion is already a serious issue due to the crowding which occurs with increasing frequency in both the winter and summer. The most immediate and inexpensive way to reduce congestion and public safety conflicts is by eliminating on-street parking all together. While Vail has permission to utilize Frontage Road on-street parking for 30 days in the winter (and none in the summer) that does not mean that it should. A comprehensive plan is a perfect opportunity to re-examine on-street parking and to end its continued use.
Looking forward, a comprehensive plan should only address unmet needs. There is no need to build more parking than is needed; that will only serve to overload the town’s capacity and create more congestion. Over the years, various options to increase parking inventory have been considered, but none have been realized. There once was a belief that development at Ever Vail, which was slated to include as much as 400 publicly available parking spaces, would satisfy foreseeable needs. Thus far, market conditions have not attracted developers to take on the 12-acre, high-density project, and there are little prospects that will change in the near future. Other potential solutions that have been discussed include: adding a fifth deck to the Lionshead structure, a new building at the Municipal Office complex, which would include parking, and an expanded parking structure at the Vail Valley Medical Center. As far as the Lionshead Village parking structure is concerned, there seems to be some recognition that it will need a complete rebuilding in the near future; the Vail Village parking structure, which is now over 40 years old, may not be far behind. But all of this should await a realistic assessment of Vail’s needs.
There is also the potential for inventive approaches to parking. Seasonal variable pricing of parking rates could be used to modulate consumer demand; the town now has the capability to vary parking rates in their parking structures to whatever formula is desired, but to date, public officials have not been inclined to allow greater flexibility in parking formulas based upon actual usage. Alternatively, the town could create an online reservation system for both public and private parking to better utilize the existing inventory. These are matters that should be considered by the Task Force.
While solutions remain to be developed, one thing is clear … it is past time to hope for a solution and, instead, time to make plans to create one.
At the same time, there is, also, a need to revisit delivery truck parking in the town core with further investment in facilitating off-street parking for truck deliveries. More than ample off-street truck docking facilities have been provided in recent years in private redevelopments at the cost of several millions of dollars.
Concurrent with the assessment of Vail’s parking needs, there should also be an assessment of Vail’s public transportation needs. As Vail reaches full capacity, is there need for more intra-town public transportation? As the work force moves downvalley, is there adequate transportation available to eliminate the need for private vehicle transportation? And, if additional parking facilities are located downvalley, as some have advocated, what are the transportation needs to move those individuals to the town core? These and other questions should be addressed as part of a comprehensive plan.
A comprehensive plan must also address finances. Officials have been tossing funding obligations back and forth for decades, with little or no progress. The town of Vail has yet to enter into a successful public/private partnership with Vail Resorts to develop additional off-street public parking; even though, there is currently a $4.3 million commitment from Vail Resorts for parking facilities. The town of Vail’s bonded debt used to build both the Vail Village and Lionshead Parking Structures was retired in 2012, so those assets are now debt free.
It would be unfortunate if a competition developed for tax dollars between parking and transportation needs on the one hand and affordable housing on the other. Vail’s needs are not a zero sum game.
The Vail Homeowners Association board is Gail Ellis, president; Judith Berkowitz, secretary; Rob Ford, treasurer; and directors Jamie Duke, John Gorsuch, John Lohre, Andres Nevares, Trygve Myhren, Larry Stewart and Doug Tansill.