The creation last month of a 24-hour parking limit along Lone Pine Road in Aspen capped a year of expanded monitored parking zones for the city of Aspen.
The north Aspen street that runs along the Hunter Creek housing complex was one of the last places people storing vehicles, trailers and boats could get away with doing so for free. After experimenting with a 72-hour parking limit, the maximum was reduced again, to 24 hours, on Dec. 24.
In the first weeks of the new regulation, Aspen Parking Director Mitch Osur said his team already has seen results.
“About 50 percent of the cars have disappeared and we’ve opened up the parking,” Osur said. “We’ve proven throughout all of this, if you threaten with parking tickets, then people change behavior.”
Violators receive a $50 parking ticket for staying in the same spot for more than 24 hours. If they continue to keep their vehicles or trailers there, they will be towed after 72 hours.
The move comes after the creation of a new residential parking zone this summer. Streets in the East Aspen neighborhood that includes Midland and Park avenues became the “E Zone,” reducing free parking along those streets from 72 hours to just two hours at a time. Residents may park there for free indefinitely, and visitors can now elect to pay $8 to park in the area for the day. Osur said the change continued his perpetual game of whack-a-mole, as people seeking long-term free parking shifted their habits.
“No matter what you do on parking people will find the next option, so they all went to Lone Pine. So I got a fair amount of complaints of vehicles up there being stored,” he said.
When he implemented the E zone, Osur requested a budget increase in order to hire another parking enforcement officer. He said the creation of a new zone would thin out the team’s ability to also regulate the downtown metered parking and residential zones A-D. Council did not OK the request, so he still operates with five officers. So far, he said, the new Lone Pine restrictions haven’t led to much additional work.
“The good news is that Lone Pine is only 33 spaces, and if people are moving as they appear to be moving, it’s not very time-consuming at the moment,” Osur said.
The enforcement team has created efficiencies internally to allow them to cover more ground with the same amount of staff. However, Osur will be presenting data about the E zone to council in February, and there is still potential to request a new position in next year’s budget hearings.
“I’m trying to make our team more efficient and it seems to be working. If it continues to be a problem, then for 2021 I’ll ask for a sixth officer and we will see what happens,” he said.
The other option, if compliance becomes an issue, is to create a paid parking system on Lone Pine to match more closely with other residential zones, Osur said.
“I could’ve gone to paid parking in a second, but I’m not trying to do that. But if this does not solve the problem, that’s the next option because I don’t know what else to do,” he said.
For now, Osur says he’s not exactly sure what the long-term storage offenders have found as their new parking spot. He pointed out that the public parking garage on Rio Grande Place is the cheapest option in town, $5 a day with a 10-punch pass. He said word of that deal has become more prevalent.
While the garage tends to fill up each summer when visitors travel into town by car more than plane, this year for the first time the garage was full on Dec. 1, the day downtown parking rates increased for the winter season.
An evening valet service also uses the public parking garage to place vehicles that are dropped off in front of the Caribou Club in the core. The service operates nightly 5-11 p.m. and costs $18 for the evening.
Osur said he will have a better sense of traffic and parking patterns in a month or two, after the overcrowded holiday season subsides. For now, he is proud of the changes that the combination of the E Zone and Lone Pine enforcement zones have created this year.
“We are just trying to solve a parking problem up there, which we have,” he said.