The town of Breckenridge collected more money than ever last ski season from its pay parking lots.
According to an annual Breckenridge Police Department parking report, the F-Lot, Tiger Dredge, East Sawmill, Wellington lots as well as overnight pay parking in the Satellite and Ice Rink lots generated a new record of $429,249 — up 22 percent from the previous record set in 2013-14.
The town’s parking and financial state recently came under increased scrutiny after town and Vail Resorts officials disagreed over funding construction of a parking garage as well as transit improvements with an admissions tax, which the ski resort has called a lift-ticket tax.
Police chief Shannon Haynes said all parking revenue goes into the town’s general fund, and the town spends about $600,000 a year on parking management plus $2.5 million on transit.
MORE PEOPLE, MORE CARS
Parking revenue is tied to guest visits.
Visitation was strong this winter, as above-average High Country snowpack for the majority of the season combined with the previous year’s momentum and unfavorable weather in other parts of the country.
The town’s parking report shows record-breaking numbers of vehicles traveled on Highway 9 at Tiger Road in December, January, February and March. Over those months, between 21,000 and 25,000 cars on average traveled the highway each day.
Summer has continued the trend of above-average daily traffic in Breckenridge and the High Country, as resort industry analysts have projected visitation this summer will be record-breaking.
Another reason for the higher revenue this year was less snow in the lots.
Snow storage takes up spaces, and drivers sometimes double-park when they can’t see the lines. This winter’s drier, sunnier weather meant the lines in the pay lots were visible more often, and the town reported increased snow removal, so lots were filled at higher capacity.
Town staff created a new brochure on parking options this year that begins by promoting the town’s and county’s free bus services in an attempt to keep visitors from using vehicles.
TOP MONEY MAKERS
Skiers can park in free lots and ride the bus or pay for parking in town-owned lots or the resort-owned gondola lots.
In the F-Lot, where town officials have said they are moving forward on construction of a parking garage, occupancy was averaged at 68 percent in the mornings during the 2014-15 season and 79 percent in the afternoons.
The F-Lot generated by far the most revenue of all the lots, collecting roughly $219,000 during the season.
Town officials have said this lot makes the most sense for building a parking garage, as studies have shown people parking there tend to stay longer and visit downtown restaurants and shops.
The Tiger Dredge lot adjacent to F-Lot netted the second-most amount of revenue, about $71,000.
The top 12 earning days for the town’s paying lots were Saturdays and Sundays in February and March as well as around Christmas.
The top day in 2014-15 was Feb. 14, which was Valentine’s Day as well as the Saturday of President’s Day Weekend, a historically busy time. That day brought in $6,159, about $1,000 more than the busiest day of the previous season, Saturday, Feb. 22.
March was the busiest month of the ski season, a trend that has remained consistent in the last few years.
During ski season, the police department’s parking and community service division devotes the majority of its time to enforcing parking rules to ensure turnover in downtown spaces.
Police issued more parking citations in the 2014-15 season than in 2013-14 but fewer than in each of the previous three years.
Officers issued 6,333 citations (not counting about 1,200 voided and warning tickets).
With a 78-percent collection rate, those citations generated $207,872 in revenue, up 35 percent from the year before.
The police department attributed the increase in total citations this year to having three officers enforcing violations for most of the winter compared to two the year before.
Breckenridge also raised parking fines and late fees from $20 to $30 at the start of ski season, but Haynes said the town didn’t have enough data yet to quantify the impact of the higher fines.
Over the last five years, citation revenue has ranged from roughly $154,000 in 2013-14 to $240,000 in 2010-11.
Most fines in 2014-15 were issued for three-hour violations, 2,678 violations, followed by tickets written for not having a parking coupon, 2,042 violations.
Overnight parking, which in recent years has generated around 1,200 violations annually by those illegally parked on streets or in lots between 2 a.m. and 6 a.m., dropped to 792 violations.
The three-hour rule on downtown streets aims to create close-in parking for business patrons, and the town has been working to address the issue of employees re-parking their cars while at work to avoid citations.
Employees who don’t walk, bike or ride the bus to get to work are encouraged to buy $50 permits through the police department that allow them to park in certain lots.
Roughly 1,100 people bought the business district employee permits in the last year, up about 200 from the previous season. Permit sales generated $68,636, up 5 percent from the year before.
The town recently announced an increase in parking lots and spaces designated employee-only to help those commuting to work in Breckenridge.