Friday, June 22, 2007

Paid parking in a downtown near you?

Transit Authority wants Ketchum to consider it

Express Staff Writer

Express file photo Ketchum city officials have been discussing for years whether the city should implement paid parking in the downtown. The concept gained traction this week when the board of the regional transit authority recommended the city take another look at paid parking as a management tool.

Paid parking, if not on the front burner, is at least back on the stove.

The Ketchum/Sun Valley Public Transit Authority passed a motion Wednesday recommending that the city of Ketchum take at look at "paid parking management." A motion passed at the end of the meeting changed the inter-governmental agency's name to the Blaine County Transportation Authority.

There was spirited debate between board members and staff over whether paid parking is needed in Ketchum's downtown core.

Chairman Peter Everett made it clear that he wanted to see paid parking, saying he has testified twice at other governmental forums in support of the issue. Everett is a business consultant on public transportation marketing.

He suggested the town "maybe move toward paid parking next summer," contending it would increase ridership on KART/PEAK bus systems. He said free parking represents a huge subsidy to the car driver.

"If you manage parking, you manage transportation," he said.

Director of Transit Operations Terry Crawford disagreed, saying Ketchum is not Aspen, Colo.

"I don't think KART should be coming out and making statements like this ... I have a lot of problems with this," he said.

Crawford questioned whether paid parking would increase ridership on the area bus systems.

A 2004 city-commissioned report from Oregon-based Kittelson & Associates said the city could expect a future parking shortage and should consider paid parking in the downtown core. At that time, a Ketchum-area citizens group that assisted in the study concluded that paid parking should be considered on a limited basis and as a long-range goal.

Board member Beth Robrahn said the issue should be considered as a way to provide a turnover of parking spots for downtown business customers.

"We should not look at this as a revenue generator but as a management tool," she said.

There are all sorts of different paid parking models, board member Ron Parsons said.

"It's easier said than done," he said. "It's way more complicated than it sounds."

Board member Jim Jaquet said paid parking in Aspen freed up parking spots and increased mass transit use.

"The circumstances of Ketchum/Sun Valley are very similar to Aspen," he said.

With Parsons and Robrahn abstaining, the recommendation now goes to the City Council.

Carol Waller, executive director of the Sun Valley/Ketchum Chamber and Visitors Bureau, said the chamber would have to look at the research on the issue.

"We would work to get input from the business community on paid parking," she said in an interview. "It has worked well in some areas and not well in others."

In other business, the board:

· Decided to continue to entertain options for giving KART a new name and agreed that retaining the name KART is an option.

· Authorized appointment, upon consultation with Wood River Rideshare, of one new at-large board member who will be a "multi-modal advocate"¾a supporter of various transportation methods.

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