Council to discuss parking, sidewalks
Steamboat Springs — People who live in Steamboat Springs care about how easily they can get around town.
In the 2005 community survey, residents identified traffic mobility and circulation as the second most important issue in the city. And those who have lived here for a number of years reported increasing frustration with traffic.
Transportation, city officials have said repeatedly, is one of the major issues facing Steamboat, especially as the city grows.
City Council members are taking notice. They have discussed transportation issues several times in the past few months, and on Tuesday, council members will gather for a policy meeting that focuses on transportation.
The four transportation-related issues to be discussed are parking, public transit, sidewalks and traffic management.
Two theories exist when it comes to adding more parking downtown, said George Krawzoff, the city’s director of transit and transportation services.
One side says pedestrians come downtown in cars, and therefore more spaces are needed, Krawzoff said. The other side says more parking will create holes in retail space, which would negatively affect the vibrancy of downtown.
Krawzoff said he knows pedestrians get out of cars, but perhaps those pedestrians need to learn to walk a tad farther.
“The parking capacity that we have is perhaps not perfect in a lot of ways,” Krawzoff said. “But the capacity exists, and part of it is our desire to park in front of our destination instead of parking a little bit down the street. Some of those attitudes have to change.”
Tracy Barnett, manager of Main Street Steamboat Springs, also said there are two camps when it comes to parking. Although some people say that a parking structure would be too urban for Steamboat’s downtown, Barnett thinks such a structure is needed.
“I think that until there is a parking structure, people will perceive that there is not enough parking,” Barnett said.
Barnett said there is enough parking if people are willing to walk a block, but “people are just used to parking in front of the place where they want to go.”
Barnett has other concerns about parking downtown. The addition of two-hour parking regulations in many parking places downtown has been only partly successful, she said.
“We’ve had some success with it; certainly people can find places,” she said, “but employees can’t find places to park.”
City officials have encouraged employees to park in outlying areas such as the Stock Bridge Transit Center, but Barnett said employees aren’t using that option. And the reason for that might be that bus service from downtown to the center is not frequent enough.
“In an ideal world, we would have a 10-minute shuttle circulation, just do a downtown circulator,” she said.
City Council members discussed in November the concept of a downtown bus that would run more frequently than current service.
Council members last week also discussed their interest in another parking issue. As they reviewed a development project proposed for Yampa Street, council members suggested the city take a second look at parking requirements. Perhaps the city requires too many parking spaces, they said.
Steamboat Springs Transit
In addition to a downtown circulator bus, residents have asked Steamboat Springs Tran–sit officials to consider a mountain circulator and the expansion of existing routes, Kraw–zoff said.
Desired routes include Steamboat II and Heritage Park, Fish Creek Falls, across from The Tennis Center at Steamboat Springs and north of Mount Werner Road.
“There’s no lack of transit route expansion possibilities,” Krawzoff said.
The cost for adding service is easy to calculate, he said. In 2004 — the latest report available — the cost was $52.52 per hour of operation. That cost covered everything but the purchase of vehicles. All officials have to do, he said, is multiply the cost by the number of hours of service added.
“For each of these routes, we can quickly apply the cost factor,” Krawzoff said.
But knowing the cost of something doesn’t mean that funding it will be easy, he said.
“It depends on how much we want to expand. If you do everything — which is not my recommendation and which is unlikely — it could double this budget,” Krawzoff said.
The city uses a half-cent sales tax to fund transit service.
Other possible sources of revenue include a countywide sales tax that would require voter approval. Another vote-required option would be a rural transportation authority, which also could set up a sales tax. A third option is an entertainment tax, which could include lift tickets. That option would require the support of Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp.
“None of these things are slam-dunk,” Krawzoff said. “That’s why we’ve talked about them more than implementing them.” People want the service, he said, but the question is whether they have the desire to pay for it.
The other question is whether transit officials could find enough drivers to meet the demands of expanded service.
The winter service is not running at desired levels. Instead of providing bus service every 20 minutes, riders must wait 30 minutes. And SST drivers are being paid overtime just to provide the 30-minute service.
One option to get more drivers, Krawzoff said, is to recruit internationally. Transit officials did so in 2001 with some success. However, dealing with visas, housing and other issues can be complicated, he said. Officials may revisit that possibility.
Krawzoff doesn’t think pay is a factor in the lack of drivers. Transit officials increased the hourly wage for drivers from $12.61 to $13.76 this year. Drivers are paid during city-provided training and obtain a commercial driver’s license. If they remain accident-free during the winter season, drivers can earn a $1,000 bonus. They also receive a free pass to Howelsen Hill Ski Area and Howelsen Ice Arena.
“We’re paying a reasonable wage compared to other wages available in the community,” Krawzoff said. “I don’t know what it would take simply through paying more.”
The city commissioned a transportation group last year to study the city’s sidewalks and trails.
The result is the recently drafted Steamboat Springs Sidewalk Master Plan, which identifies, in a prioritized list, $10.8 million in new sidewalk and trail links that the city could use.
The plan identified more than 220 possible new sidewalk and trail links as well as four new pedestrian bridges. The areas where the most pedestrian travel occurs, according to the plan, are downtown, the Curve Plaza area, the Pine Grove area and at the ski area base. Many of the top-priority proposed links are in those locations.
“As the town and the community grows, it would be nice to have access off the streets so people are not walking in the streets,” said Craig Robinson, the city’s open space and trails supervisor.
City staff members are set to present the plan to the City Council on Tuesday. The council and city staff will have the opportunity to revise the draft, which then will go back to the council for adoption.
Julie Rabbitt, owner of Steam–boat Reservations and Travel, made an addition to her office space on Oak Street when she moved in. To make the addition, Rabbitt was required to install a sidewalk in front of her business.
The neighboring business has a sidewalk, she said, but it doesn’t connect to other sidewalks.
“It’s silly because it’s one sidewalk leading to a drop off,” she said. “You have to walk on the street to access any of the businesses here.”
Rabbitt thinks all business owners on Oak Street should be required to build sidewalks, not just ones that make changes to their buildings. That way, she said, the sidewalks would connect.
“I think a sidewalk is not a bad idea, but if you don’t make everybody put in a sidewalk, it’s meaningless,” she said.
Dr. Russ Fasolino, who works at the East-West Center on Oak Street, also was required to add a sidewalk because he applied for a change-of-use permit for the building, which previously was not a health clinic.
Fasolino said he would have added a sidewalk anyway.
“It enhances the property; it’s a nice place to walk,” he said.
However, he said, it’s the city’s responsibility to build sidewalks.
“I understand that they are trying to do something, but to require the property owners to put in sidewalks when they get a change-of-use permit, that’s never going to get it done,” he said.
Fasolino thinks the past council spent too much money on the tennis center and other amenities rather than taking care of basic services. Fasolino said the new City Council, which changed after November elections, may understand his point of view better than the former council.
“With the new council coming in, they are more geared toward amenities for citizens of Steamboat rather than the tourists,” he said.
Barnett, who is a member of the Steamboat Springs Planning Commission, said she is “adamant” about sidewalk requirements.
“We gotta start somewhere. It’s a public benefit, and you need to do that,” she said.
Barnett said Main Street’s design committee has discussed traffic management at length, especially when it comes to what she calls “traffic-calming techniques.”
Committee members have had preliminary discussions with public works and Colorado Department of Transportation officials about those techniques, which include bump-outs and medians.
Bump-outs are extensions of sidewalks at intersections. They are meant to slow traffic and reduce the distance pedestrians must walk across the street.
The City Council discussed bump-outs for a proposed development project on Yampa Street last week. Several members exp–ressed concern about how the bump-outs would affect snow plowing.
“Bump-outs are probably not in Steamboat Springs for a reason,” council member Kevin Kaminski said, citing snowplowing needs as his concern.
Barnett said Main Street members have discussed the issues related to bump-outs and snow. She said one idea would be the implementation of a business improvement district to address cleanliness and safety. The district could deal with needs the city doesn’t have the time or money to address, Barnett said, such as plowing parking spaces behind or between bump-outs.
Bump-outs are just one method that might help reduce drivers’ speeds downtown, Barnett said.
“People have 22 seconds to get across the street while people are flying through downtown,” she said. “It makes a difference to calm it and make it feel pedestrian-friendly.”
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