MOUNTAIN VILLAGE – The era of abundant free parking in Mountain Village has come to an end.
A three-year parking management agreement signed between the Town of Mountain Village and the Telluride Ski and Golf Company in late October and formally announced last week allows the town to begin charging for parking in the 460-vehicle Gondola Parking Garage and other parking areas in Mountain Village, beginning this Nov. 25.
Per the new agreement, which may be automatically renewed for three more years in April 2013 unless terminated by either party, the town is responsible for the daily operations and management of parking, and setting most of the parking rates associated with the various lots and garages.
“Charging for parking is not intended to be punitive to anyone, it’s merely intended to be equitable and to have people parking share in the cost of parking,” said Mayor Bob Delves.
Mountain Village taxpayers now pay $1.2 million in debt and maintenance costs related to the town’s parking lots and garages annually, and the new paid system is expected to offset about $170,000 of that this winter, according to Town Manager Greg Sparks.
“We would like to get parking to the point where at some point in the future revenues meet operating expenses,” he said. Those operating expenses amount to about $400,000 a year.
To ensure Mountain Village taxpayers and residents have access to free and convenient parking within town limits, however, the town will continue to issue up to two, non-transferable, residential parking permits per household.
The need for the town to enter into the agreement with Telski to charge for parking in the Gondola Parking Garage stems from an agreement between the two parties in 2003. At that time Telski conveyed to the town about 55 acres in active and passive open space tracts unrelated to the land where the garage currently sits. In exchange, the town granted resort users free parking in the garage.
During the first year of the new agreement motorists will pay a flat $5 to park in the multi-tiered structure between the hours of 6 a.m. and 2 a.m., while the existing overnight fee put into effect over a year ago will remain at $20 for a 24-hour period.
Recreational vehicles may also be parked on certain levels of the garage for $5 per day or $40 overnight.
By the terms of the agreement the town may change the garage parking rate for the off-season and summer months. It may also increase the $5 winter parking rate to not more than $10 per day in years two and three of the agreement.
To be sure, the economy has played a large part in the town’s decision to capture parking revenue.
“Absolutely,” said Sparks, noting that the decline of the town’s primary sources of income in the wake of the Great Recession has forced it to figure out how to make parking more self sufficient.
Other free services, such as the popular Dial-A-Ride taxi, are also up for scrutiny.
“It’s very much the new economic reality of how to fund these services long term,” he said.
“It has certainly helped drive the discussion to put the cost of parking on parkers rather than the taxpayers,” agreed Delves.
For those who plan to use the garage frequently, a non-transferable permit good for day parking throughout the 2010/2011ski season (Nov. 28-April 15) is available to the public for $400. The price of the pass is prorated to the end of season at $100 per month.
Employees of licensed Mountain Village businesses can also purchase a non-transferable, daytime season pass for $200 with proof of employment. The price of the pass is pro-rated to the end of the season at $50 per month.
“That’s a great thing,” said Diggity Doggs vending cart owner Erick Mosher of the reduced price pass after describing the new fee structure as “unfortunate for the working class.”
“I understand why they’re doing it, drastic times call for drastic measures,” he said.
While town officials believe that the new parking fees are unlikely to dissuade skiers and other recreational visitors from Mountain Village (costs in the heated Heritage Parking Garage will actually decrease from $2 an hour with a maximum charge of $30 for each 24-hour period to $1 an hour with the first two hours free of charge), employees could feel a greater burden.
For them, 110 free parking spaces will remain available in the Meadows Run parking lot at the end of Adams Ranch Road, daily from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. While RVs, trailers and commercial vehicles over 7,000 pounds will no longer be allowed to park in the lot in an effort to maximize its daytime capacity, employees will still compete with visitors and residents whose residential parking permits or Big Billie’s Apartments permits allow overnight parking in those spaces.
“For employees that get here early, the Meadows can be a good option for them,” said Sparks.
Still, “We’re going to find that the Meadows is going to fill up certainly before noon,” he added.
Meadows resident Bob Pattalochi, who uses the Lift 1 chondola that provides pedestrian transport between the Meadows and the Village Core to commute to work, foresaw other impacts.
“The chondola, I think, is going to be overtaxed,” he said.
Pattalochi noted pedestrian wait times of as much as 20 minutes during peak periods in previous years before employees were largely being directed to park in the free Meadows Run parking lot as they are now.
“That lot is full down there in the winter anyways, it’s jam-packed,” he said.
“We could be ending up with lots of traffic down there just circling around.”
Fifty free parking spaces on upper Mountain Village Boulevard between Sunny Ridge Place and Lookout Ridge will also be available to Mountain Village Center business owners and employees between 6 a.m. and 2 a.m. daily. Parking is on a first-come, first-served basis, available only to those with a valid permit obtained with proof of employment.
The number of employee permits the town will distribute will be based on the number of employees listed on each business’ business license application.
Once the Gondola Parking Garage, Heritage Parking Garage and Meadows Run parking lot exceed 90 percent capacity, the town will allow for overflow roadway parking at a cost of $5 a day, with no overnight parking.
Some Telski employees who may have previously made use of the Gondola Parking Garage will now have exclusive access to the Village Pond parking lot. Because the lot is located on Telski private property it will be closed to the public and utilized, managed and maintained at Telski’s discretion.
“What we’re really doing here is trying to balance competing interests,” said Telski CEO Dave Riley when asked why the ski company would be willing to relinquish the free parking that benefited its guests and employees.
“The way the agreement is written, if it’s determined that there are unintended consequences then it will be revisited.”
That said, “The town is trying to collect some money at a reasonable rate that they can put away to plan and expand parking eventually,” he continued. “Trying to balance that need with not charging too much is the goal.”
With free parking in Mountain Village becoming scarcer, many believe the Town of Telluride may stand to benefit.
“I think a lot of people are going to try to park in the Town of Telluride where it’s free,” said Bootdoctors’ owner Penelope Gleason, who expressed understanding about Mountain Village’s reasoning for new fees and said she didn’t think they were outrageous.
Telluride Town Manager Greg Clifton also saw that possibility.
“We expect there will be increased parking demands throughout the town, Carhenge and any other areas that will be open to the public,” he said.
“We’ve been having discussions about that,” he continued. “We’re bracing for an increase.”
And some speculate that the dynamic could prove a boon to Telluride merchants.
“I think the big thing about this is that we’ll see the après ski business here [in Telluride] because a lot of people will park for free in Telluride,” said Mosher, who operates vending carts in Mountain Village and Telluride.
Despite the increased costs to ski and work in Mountain Village as a result of the new parking fees, there is also the possibility of a silver lining in the form of carbon savings.
“We hope this will encourage people to carpool and encourage people to take public transportation,” over driving themselves, said Delves, referring in particular to employees shuttles run by the town, Telski and other Mountain Village employers from distant towns
“We need to get the shuttles full,” he said.
“That, ultimately, is the best solution to parking – to have no cars.”
For more detailed information about the upcoming parking changes please visit www.townofmountainvillage.com/parking.