Glenwood Springs opens debate on paid downtown parking
A trial run to determine if Glenwood Springs should require paid parking downtown could answer a question about the value of making people pay to park in the commercial core.
A community meeting Monday night at City Hall allowed the public to weigh in on the idea, leading to disagreement over whether paid parking helps or hinders downtown businesses.
Some of the business owners in attendance believe paid parking would discourage employees and nearby residents from hogging convenient on-street parking spaces all day. That would free them up for customers on a regular rotating basis.
Others countered that paid parking might be a deterrent for some customers, especially those running quick errands.
In any case, the city is seriously considering a request from the Downtown Development Authority to evaluate the benefits of paid, multispace meter parking in parts of downtown.
The idea grew out of a concern that a lack of parking, and particularly a lack of regular turnover of available spaces, hurts the ability of some businesses to thrive.
“Underpriced parking spots tend to be full, leading cars to circle in vain looking for spots … and adding to congestion, air pollution and distracted driving,” according to presentation put together by city staff. “The city believes the best remedy to this problem is to charge for the most convenient, on-street parking spaces.”
Multispace parking meters, such as those used in Aspen and Denver, can be a more effective means of controlling parking than the current two-hour free parking limit. The current limit is hard to fully enforce and can be sidestepped by those who don’t mind leaving work every two hours to move a space or two, explained Patrick Fleming, an intern for City Manager Debra Figueroa.
“On the downside, meters create a payment hassle that can discourage customers if comparable shopping with free parking is nearby, and they add to the administrative costs for the city,” he said.
DDA board member and Glenwood Adventure Co. owner Ken Murphy said the real problem is when downtown workers use prime street parking. Long-term parking lots on Cooper and on the west end of Seventh Street are more appropriate for such employees.
On a typical weekend day, Cooper Avenue between Seventh and Eighth turns into “staff parking” by mid-morning, Murphy said. He asks his employees not to take up those spaces while they are at work. Murphy described himself as a huge proponent of paid parking.
The city may implement a trial metered parking program, possibly as soon as late summer, when the Grand Avenue bridge detour begins. Possible trial locations would include Cooper between Seventh and Ninth streets, Grand Avenue from Eighth to Ninth, and Colorado Avenue between Seventh and Eighth.
All-day parking would remain free at the city parking deck on Ninth and Cooper, the city lot next to the Methodist Church and the parking lot on Seventh Street at the former sewer plant site.
The timing of the trial program was also a major concern at the Monday meeting. Some urged the city to wait until after the 95-day detour period from Aug. 14 through late November, and preferably until next spring. But City Councilor Steve Davis said the detour period will be a critical period of time to give paid parking a try.
“Our main goal is to look at how we can keep businesses viable in the downtown, and parking is going to become a big issue, especially during the detour,” Davis said. “What little parking there is now will completely dry up during that time.”
Another came from residents in the neighborhoods immediately adjacent to downtown. If paid parking is implemented, those looking for longer-term free parking will likely spill into the neighborhoods, limiting resident parking, they said.
As the city explores paid parking, it will also look at several locations to provide more long-term free parking in the downtown core, Figueroa said.
“We are trying to create more parking as we are also trying to manage the parking that we do have,” she said.
Resident permits to allow long-term street parking in neighborhoods are another possibility, she said.
Figueroa said no decisions have been made regarding paid parking, and the proposal will be further discussed with the DDA board and with City Council.