Starting Dec. 1 of this year, Breckenridge will implement paid parking on Main Street.
An hourly rate for the spots has yet to be determined, but Shannon Haynes, assistant town manager of Breckenridge, said that the council will be deciding that point during its budget retreat meeting on Oct. 25.
Some of the construction to put in the new parking stations has already begun. Haynes said that on Oct. 17 crews began the process of pouring concrete to make the base for the new machines.
The town will be replacing all paid parking machines throughout Breckenridge to make sure everything is on the same system. Pay stations in parking lots will be placed earlier so that they can be active by the start of the ski season. The town will also need to remove all of its current parking signage from Main Street before the new fixtures are installed.
Paid parking will be along most of Main Street, as well as Ridge Street, but will skip the South 300 block by the post office, Haynes said. The side streets that have parking spots between Ridge and Main Street will also switch to paid parking. People will need to pay for parking in these spots between 10 a.m. and 8 p.m.
CHANGE OF HABIT
While spots do not currently have a time limit, Haynes said that the amount people pay for parking increases the longer they stay in the spot.
“We want to discourage people from parking on Main Street to go skiing,” said the Mayor of Breckenridge, Eric Mamula. “It will be more expensive to park on Main Street to ski than it will be to park in the Gondola Lots.”
Mamula wanted to stress that the new paid parking system is not meant to be a revenue generator for the town.
“This is meant to influence behavior, and the town will set the price based on occupancy rates in the area that we have paid parking,” he said.
He added that although the town council is setting a rate at its next meeting, officials will look at it again four to six weeks after the program starts to see if improvements can be made as far as cost or time the spots are available.
GETTING A SECOND OPINION
Haynes worked with a transportation and parking task force for the town to implement strategies in the hopes of alleviating congestion. Paid parking, as well as other recent improvements to transit, are all recommendations from a study that was done by traffic consultant firm NelsonNygaard.
The firm was originally hired after a proposal in the summer of 2015 from the town to build a parking garage at the F Lot. Many members of the community voiced concerns about the garage, particularly that it would not help with traffic congestion. Once hired, NelsonNygaard’s study confirmed this.
The town has also made some accommodations for employees working in Breckenridge, such as improvements to public transit. The Ice Rink Lot will be free for anyone to park in during the day. The Satellite Lot will have 300 spaces designated for employee and overnight parking. Employees will need to get a free permit from the town to use the spaces. There will be no change in several of the lots in town that have been paid parking during the day, but free after 3 p.m.
“(This) also provides this opportunity for employees who work at night to have a place that is close to town that they can walk to and feel safe,” Haynes said.
Kim Dykstra, director of communications for the town, said that there will be a merchant validation program put into place and the town will work with business owners on how to use it.
PARKING GARAGE CONFLICT
While a parking garage has not been entirely taken off the town’s wish list, it has dropped on the list of priorities. This caused a rift between the town and Breckenridge Ski Resort, whose COO, John Buhler, wrote a scathing letter to the Daily on Sept. 25 suggesting the town was backing down from its promise to build the garage.
Mamula said that his biggest concern with the parking garage is that it is a costly solution, and one that can’t be adjusted once it’s been put into place. He said he would prefer to work out the all kinks before investing in a garage.
“You build a parking structure in the wrong place, (then) you’ve got a $50 million parking structure in the wrong place and there’s nothing you can do about it,” he said.
IMPACT ON LOCALS
Local shop owners in Breckenridge were also wondering about the current status of the parking garage. Charity Mersereau, who has worked at Magical Scraps and Boutique on Main Street for nearly two years, said that while she was originally opting for the garage, she thought paid parking was also a good solution.
“You can’t park in Vail or Aspen or anywhere else for free,” she said.
Michael Jackman, who has owned the Breck Hat Co for more than 20 years, said he was “neutral” about the new paid parking and wondered if it would make a large difference since most of the spots on Main Street already have a three-hour maximum time limit. One of his concerns was whether the new spots would prevent him from being able to park in front of his shop temporarily in order to bring in merchandise.
His employee, Brad Bushey, on the other hand, was worried about the cost for locals and whether or not he would have to park further away from work in order to avoid added spending.
Sam Fredericks, an employee at the Global Candle Gallery, said she just avoids driving to work in general because of the parking issues. She uses public transit instead.
“Parking is annoying already, and I don’t think having (paid parking) will make much difference,” she said.
She added that she hopes the paid parking will help prevent tourists from staying in one spot for long periods of time.
THE FUTURE OF PARKING IN BRECK
Paid parking is just the start of a plan from the town in lessening parking and traffic woes throughout Breckenridge. Haynes said the town will have community meetings before paid parking is implemented to show people how the new machines will work.
There is also an app, PassportParking Mobile Pay, that goes with the machines. The app allows people to pay with their phone, and make adjustments to their parking time slot. It will all be done by inputting the license plate number of the car. Haynes is also working to put together videos to demonstrate the new process. Both Mamula and Haynes said that while the change will be difficult for locals, they are hoping the town can make the transition as easy as possible.
“The paid parking thing, while I know it will be painful, was the single biggest thing that the consultants said, ‘You need to do this, this will make more difference than anything else you can do,’” Mamula said.