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Tourists, workers react to Aspen’s parking fees, enforcement

Jul 5, 2016

"Downtowner" shuttles are part of Aspen's effort to reduce car traffic in town.

Aspen’s grand plan to open up more parking has gotten strong reactions. Aspen Public Radio checked in with workers and tourists to find out what their feedback is, now that the effort is more than a month old.

It’s a busy summer afternoon in front of Paradise Bakery. Couples and families stroll

past storefronts or sit with ice cream cones along Cooper Avenue. A work truck is in one of the parking spots along the street, and a young man named Grayson is sorting through equipment.

“I don’t know about paying for parking. Especially when we’re just doing a job,” he said while searching for a tool. He declined to give his last name, and works for a hardwood flooring company.

Grayson and his coworkers paid around thirty dollars to keep a spot long enough to get the job done. A full day tallies up to more than forty dollars now in this area.

It’s part of the City of Aspen’s multipronged effort to open up parking spaces in the downtown core. That includes enforcing a four hour limit. And so far numbers show it’s working. The number of people parking is down an average of 15 percent as of the end of June.

“While I was doing construction, it was the hardest thing,” said Andrea Wendel. She opened her new gallery in mid June.

“The parking is so expensive, and because I had to do a lot of work,” she explained, “I had to pay on my phone and then when that expired I had to go and get a ticket, and then I got in trouble because I was here in my spot more than four hours. And I was just trying to get my [gallery] together.”

Wendel has been in the Aspen area for more than two decades, and she’s really excited about her location. Now that her gallery is up and running, Wendel settled on parking regularly at the city’s Rio Grande Garage. It’s another measure of success for keeping more cars out of the downtown core.

The whole point for getting traffic moving is to make sure tourists can park and spend money.

Out on Cooper Avenue, Los Angeles resident Wendy Kelman shelled out three dollars to have a parking spot for an hour.

“Parking rates are very high,” she lamented, but conceded that she and her passengers had no problem finding an open space.

And Kelman does believe it’s likely she will spend more money in downtown Aspen because she could find a place to park her SUV.

Though Kelman does prefer having two hours of free parking, like when she’s back in Beverly Hills.