Seeking a solution to peak-season gridlock and parking shortages, Breckenridge voters passed an initiative in November to provide long-term funding for parking and transit solutions. Now, citizens will be asked to participate in the process, by reviewing available long-term solutions in a series of meetings over the next few months.
“Once the measure passed, what we heard from the community was, let’s look beyond just the parking structure,” Breckenridge communications director Kim Dykstra said. “We’re not actually going to see money from the lift ticket tax until 2017. This is time for us to study the issue from holistic perspective and come up with long-term solutions.”
With DTJ Design, Inc. and Nelson\Nygaard Consulting Associates reviewing the town’s previous transportation studies, the two companies presented a variety of options to town council on Tuesday, including improving long-term parking and pedestrian access as potential solutions to reduce congestion.
These concepts will be presented at two public meetings next Thursday, Feb. 18, at 7:30 a.m. or 5 p.m. at the Breckenridge Grand Vacations Community Center.
“This town has been trying to solve the traffic problem for a long time,” Paul Moore, a principal with Nelson\Nygaard said. “The fact is, for communities that are vibrant, thriving and in-demand, congestion is a symptom of success.”
Still, between looking over countless studies, surveys and spending time on the ground, he and DTJ Design president Bill Campie agreed a few solutions might reduce congestion significantly.
Moore explained that congestion is an exponential model, not linear, meaning that as traffic volume increases, the wait worsens significantly. Thankfully, the converse is also true:
“Backing off 10-15 percent of trips will affect more than 10-15 percent of congestion,” he explained. “All we have to do is pick off on some of these trips around the margins to have a really strong impact on congestion on some of these peak days.”
Campie explained the town faced a unique situation, between long-term residents who often use their car to get around town to the grocery store and post office, and an influx of visitors — often driving in from the city. The unusual traffic patterns, and slim pickings with parking, leads many locals to run routine errands at unusual times to avoid the crunch.
“With City Market, that’s where I get my hair cut or get groceries. I can’t do that at times that make sense for me — between four and dinner,” he explained. “It’s a big deal.”
The hunt for parking might be the focal issue of the town’s current transit problems. Not to mention that cars circling around the block hunting for a parking spot create more congestion.
“Skier parking on business lots came up multiple times,” he said.
Looking at employee parking lots, he noted several were parked with skis.
“I didn’t know if we saw anyone who was shopping or an employee,” he added.
The goal, he and Moore explained, was to get visitors to keep their car parked in one place, instead of having them drive around. Even with day skiers, the hope is to get them to park in a place that will allow them to walk around town.
“We know they’re gonna hunt for parking, and they’re gonna try to find their secret parking spot. It’s a time deal,” Campie said. “How do we get the day skier to get up, get out and walk around town?”
A WALKABLE DOWNTOWN
Part of the answer, according to him and Moore, is making the town as a whole more pedestrian friendly. While most lodges are about a 10 minutes’ walk from downtown, Moore explained there were several impediments keeping people from making that connection.
“We don’t have to get everybody out of the car,” he explained. “It’s just making sure people have opportunities and incentives to be less consumptive and more productive.”
The cold weather, lack of clear signage and minimal lighting were three potential impediments that might hold visitors back from walking — rather than driving — downtown.
“Skiers have an incredibly high tolerance for discomfort. They’ll wait to ride buses, they’ll not be able to feel their fingers,” Campie joked. “People want to walk. …
“There’s this whole journey that I think there’s a huge opportunity with room for improvement.”
While Main Street itself is bright, well-kept and easy to navigate, he noted the process of getting there might include walking down dark, slippery slopes, not to mention crossing the highway and parking lots.
“It’s kind of like unwrapping a present that your older brother’s wrapped in duct tape,” he laughed. “You go from the dark to this incredibly well-lit, beautiful, storybook environment.”
The lighting is especially key in the winter, as by the time skiers get off the slopes, it’s likely already dark. A few more streetlights, improved signage and a warm jacket might be enough to get visitors on their feet.
“There are almost easy opportunities for improvement,” Campie added.
With two preliminary public meetings set for this Thursday, he and Moore will look through suggestions from Breckenridge residents and reconvene again for another set of public meetings on April 25. In June, a third meeting will be held to give the community an opportunity to comment on recommended strategies.
“We’ve been putting these plans in motion so we don’t just want to put a Band-Aid on it,” Dykstra said. “People are chomping at the bit to get going. … We really want the community to help us.”
The hope is to have a thorough Parking and Transportation Action Plan for the town in July.
“Parking has been one of our most critical challenges for as long as I can remember,” Breckenridge Mayor John Warner said in a statement. “Now that the funding piece of the puzzle is solid, we urge the community to be a part of creating a holistic, long-term and multi-faceted approach to the traffic and parking problems congesting our town today so that we can continue to have the quality of life that brought us all here in the first place.”