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Copyright © 2002 Express Publishing Inc.
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For the week of May 7 - 13, 2003


Ketchum takes first step toward parking plan

Committee convenes to review options

Express Staff Writer

A special committee convened by the city of Ketchum last week reviewed a set of potential parking-management strategies for the city, including one to implement paid parking in the downtown area.

Don Cunningham, code enforcement officer for the Ketchum Police Department, works on Tuesday to enforce parking regulations in central Ketchum. In 2001, the city issued a total of 3,077 parking tickets, mostly for violations of time limits in two-hour-parking zones. Express photo by Willy Cook

Meeting for the first time Friday, May 2, the Downtown Ketchum Parking Advisory Committee took no decisive action, but set the foundation for an eventual recommendation to city officials on how to manage the city’s limited public parking in future years.

The initial meeting of the committee came just days after the city’s parking consultant, Oregon-based Kittelson & Associates, released its preliminary recommendations to the city. In the report, the consultant lists numerous goals and management strategies for city officials to consider.

Committee members on Friday included Ketchum businessmen Eldridge French, Sigi Vogl and Chip Atkinson, city parking agent Kim Rogers, Sun Valley resident Milt Adam, Wood River Rideshare executive director Beth Callister, city engineer Dick Fosbury and two Kittelson consultants.

At the heart of the matter is the question of whether there is a bona fide parking shortage in Ketchum and whether the city should use paid parking as a tool to manage its public parking spaces.

Judith Gray, chief representative of Kittelson & Associates, told committee members that Ketchum—based on a set of state-generated growth projections—will find itself with a parking shortage if it doesn’t act to increase or better manage its existing inventory.

Gray said the city has approximately 1,700 public parking spaces—most of which are along the streets—and about 1,300 privately owned spaces.

She said the fact that the city has more public parking than private parking is one of the key positive aspects of the city’s situation. "Ketchum has done a lot of things right," she said.

However, she noted that a study of a typical Friday afternoon in Ketchum revealed that 74 percent of the public parking and 64 percent of the private parking was occupied. "That’s actually quite high," she said.

An 85 percent occupancy level is considered "full" by industry standards, mainly because effective parking zones should provide a "buffer" to allow some turnover, she noted.

John Ringert, a Kittelson & Associates engineer, said time-restricted parking in parts of central Ketchum is "working pretty well," with less than 10 percent of motorists violating the restrictions.

Gray added that studies of state Highway 75 have shown that 14 percent of highway commuters carpool, a figure that she called "a very good starting point." She and Ringert said improvements to the region’s public transit system and increased participation in public transit should be the focus of initiatives outside the city boundaries.

Inside the city boundaries, Ketchum officials have several options, Gray said.

If the city were to do nothing, her report to the city notes, general demand for parking in 2025 would exceed supply by approximately 450 to 900 spaces. "Therefore, the city of Ketchum should anticipate development of a minimum of 450 parking spaces to meet future demand," the report says.

To meet that goal, the city can increase its supply of parking spaces or work to decrease the demand, Gray said.

Management strategies identified by the Kittelson report include:

  • Implementing paid parking for public lots and on-street spaces.

  • Limiting parking in two-hour zones to one daily visit per vehicle for each block face to restrict business employees from switching places during the day.

  • Reconfiguring the time limits in restricted areas, possibly by establishing shorter time maximums in high-turnover areas.

  • Improving signage to direct motorists to public parking and so-called "shared parking," areas where a property owner allows public parking at designated times.

  • Exploring funding options to develop more public parking or park-and-ride lots outside of town.

In discussing the issue, committee members broadly agreed on their goals for managing parking in the city.

Atkinson said his primary concern is that all decisions about the matter should consider how to maintain the economic vitality of the downtown area.

Several committee members said they want the future plan to promote a "pedestrian-friendly" environment in the city.

However, Adam questioned whether a parking "problem" actually exists at all in Ketchum.

Harold Moniz, Ketchum senior planner, informed the committee that any plan will have to be approved by the Ketchum City Council.

At their regular meeting Monday, May 5, City Council members briefly addressed the issue at the request of Councilman Randy Hall.

Prompted by Hall, the panel tentatively agreed to send a letter to Parsons Brinckerhoff—the Utah-based consultant helping the state to develop alternatives for expanding Highway 75 through the Wood River Valley—asking the company to consider in its research that Ketchum may implement paid parking in the future.

Hall noted that the letter might help the state consultant to evaluate one alternative that includes high-occupancy vehicle lanes to and from Ketchum.

Mayor Ed Simon suggested at the meeting that paid parking might very well be in Ketchum’s future. "We don’t have an urgent need for paid parking," he said. "We have an urgent need to plan for paid parking."


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