Parking street

Vehicles are parked along Midland Avenue on Wednesday. The east-side area soon will be subject to the city’s residential parking rules through the creation of a new zone.

Certain streets on the east side of Aspen where parking has not been regulated will be converted to a new residential zone beginning July 15.

Residential zones allow for two hours of free parking once a day for non-residents. If they meet certain criteria, residents can obtain a city permit that allows parking beyond the two hours, but they are still required to move their vehicles every 72 hours.

“What happens in parking is we call it whack-a-mole, and when you do something here, something pops up over there,” said Mitch Osur, city parking director.

The unregulated area will be referred to as the “E” zone. It encompasses six east-end streets: Dale, Hopkins, Midland, Park and Riverside avenues, and Park Circle. The area is the last free place to park for an extended time period in Aspen. Motorists have taken to using those streets for vehicle storage.

“We have storage of trailers up there,” Osur said. “If you went up there right now, you’d see a bunch of boats and snowmobiles on trailers.”

Beginning in November, nearby King Street also will be converted to the E zone; currently it is linked to a different geographic area.

A meeting is scheduled for 3 p.m. Wednesday at city hall to receive public comments on the new E-zone regulations.

Residential permits will be issued to those who can prove they live in the zone by showing a lease or utility bill. Permits will be issued only to vehicles that also are listed at the matching address. Each resident will be allowed a digital permit for up to four vehicles, as well as an interchangeable guest pass.

Over the last few years, the parking department has received an increase of calls from east-side residents complaining that they don’t have anywhere to park, Osur said. The residents sought enforcement of the 72-hour time limit for the unregulated area. City council members, parking representatives and neighbors met during the spring to discuss the best way to handle the increased congestion.

During a March work session, city council gave direction to Osur to implement the residential zone, as opposed to smaller steps like enforcing the 72-hour time limit through patrols instead of only when complaints are logged. A vehicle’s owner has three days to move his or her car after it’s been tagged before getting towed.

The council had mixed opinions about the culprits of the decreased parking availability. Some pointed out that as prices in the downtown core have risen significantly, people have discovered the free spots on the outskirts of the city, using them for shopping or ski trips. Commuters also have been blamed for essentially testing the east end as a park and ride.

“The phone calls I get is [that] basically it’s turned into the Aspen Intercept Lot,” Councilman Adam Frisch said of the east-side streets during the work session.

There is no charge to park at the Brush Creek Intercept Lot, located at the junction of Brush Creek Road and Highway 82. Council members spoke of a scenario in which that space might be used for vehicle storage instead.

Frisch pointed out that even though Aspenites frequently use alternative forms of transportation, that doesn’t keep them from needing parking. Though locals are getting good at using alternative modes of transportation, “whether you drive your car every day or once a year you need a place to park it,” he said.

Osur pointed out that the creation of the E zone will not necessarily get rid of trailer storage on the narrow east-end streets, because residents can use any of their permits for trailers. The price for non-residents to park in the E zone will be $8 a day, the same rate for Aspen’s other residential zones.

Electronic and electric vehicles can park in the E zone for free all day, as can carpoolers who stop at the airport kiosk on the way into Aspen to get a day permit. Enforcement hours in the E zone will be 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, except on holidays, just as they are in the other residential zones.

Starting in 2020, residents will only be able to apply for three passes plus a guest pass instead of four. Osur told council that some residents sell their guest passes to commuters, and that the parking department is looking into also making those digital and linking them to specific license plates. Frisch discouraged this, saying the risk of the guest pass is something the city will just have to accept.

“The idea of people in Aspen having to email the city government to say who is coming over, I don’t think that will fly and I don’t think it should fly and I don’t think it ever will fly,” Frisch said.

Letters will go out in the first week of June to all residents who are eligible for parking permits. Enforcement of the residential zone will begin on July 15.

“I’m envisioning the first two or three weeks we are going to write a bunch of tickets and I’m assuming after that everybody will play by the rules,” Osur said.

During the March work session, Councilman Bert Myrin asked how much the city is anticipating in revenue from converting the neighborhood to paid extended parking. Osur said that based on calculations from existing zones, the city could make $8,000 annually, mostly on parking tickets for those who park beyond the two-hour limit. Those tickets are $40 for a first offense.

Osur also presented council with a $56,000 line item to cover the full-time salary of an additional parking attendant. Council decided to hold off on that expenditure, which means all of Aspen’s residential zones will have less enforcement as staff adds the new territory to their beats.

“In some cases it will mean a little less enforcement in other zones, but we’ve been doing this long enough to know where to go and how to find people and to mix it up so our patterns are not predictable,” Osur said.

Alycin Bektesh is a reporter for the Aspen Daily News. She can be reached at Alycin@aspendailynews.com or on Twitter @alycinwonder.