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Vail’s paid parking plan is on Park City Council agenda this week

Drivers on Lowell Avenue move toward the drop-off area near the bus stop at the Park City Mountain Resort base area Saturday.
Ben Lasseter
Paid parking and reservations will be required for PCMR this winter season.

Vail is rolling out a paid parking plan for PCMR this winter. That could improve road congestion, but spillover parking could affect businesses and clog neighborhoods. Park City is looking at ways to address the policy change.

The new parking plan takes effect Dec. 12. Starting then, reservations will be required for the village base parking lot between 8:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. Cars with four or more people can park for free but still need a reservation. Parking is free for everyone after 1 p.m.

According to Deirdra Walsh, vice president and chief operating officer of PCMR, the new program is aimed at addressing the ski season congestion.

“And so when we think about the overall guests experience when we've heard from the city in the community that this is something that we need to address," she said. "This is a transformative program and I recognize that it is not a one size fits all, there will be people that don't love this idea. I think by and large, what we are rolling out, we'll have the expected impacts that we hoped for. And then I think what the city in the community hoped for.”

Walsh says making reservations for parking means people won’t have to get to the mountain as early to get a spot – which could reduce early traffic backups.

“So now with a reservation, guaranteed between 8:30 and one o'clock, you know that you can come to the resort, and it'll spread out that arrival pattern, it's not everybody showing up the same time," she said. "Now in a powder day, I think everyone's still going to show up at the same time. And then the paid Park part of the program is to really incentivize and change guest behavior and try to have more people that choose to drive to the resort to have more occupancy in the vehicles or to keep the car off the road altogether.”

Park City Manager Matt Dias says the city is figuring out how to handle what could be issues with the new system. He said the city may offer restaurant incentives, like validations to those who come to Main Street for shopping or dining.

“And so, you know, we're coming in sort of with a range of options, we're trying to be adaptive and flexible and respond to the new reservation and paid parking system at the resort," he said. "So the plan will be, you know, we're going to daylight, some of this to the mayor and council on Thursday night. And then we're going to do some further engagement with the business districts in the community, you know, it may be a range of pricing, you could include an incentive program, I'm not really sure where we'll land on this, but we're going to work hard on it this fall.”

One of the areas where PCMR visitors often park is China Bridge on Swede Alley. A concern is that by charging for parking at the resort, more people will fill up China Bridge and downtown street parking to avoid paying – which could leave no spaces for those trying to frequent downtown businesses.

Ginger Wicks is the Park City Historic Alliance executive director. She says PCMR visitors parking in China Bridge is not a new phenomenon and solutions were already in the works before Vail announced the paid parking plan.

“And so we just want to make sure that we are thoughtful in coming up with scenarios or promotions or incentives, whatever might come out of the conversations to make sure that if you're parking in the historic district and you're skiing, you're paying for that but we're not negatively impacting businesses.”  

Dias said he understands paid parking will have ripple effects not just on Main Street but in the surrounding neighborhoods as well.

“Someone threw the analogy. At me the other day, it's like squeezing a balloon, you squeeze the balloon, it sort of always pops out somewhere else," Dias said. "And so there are areas like city park and some residential streets that have always, you know, right, wrong or indifferent, accommodated some resort overflow, where people were willing to walk long distances or try to jump on a bus.”

For now, parking at Canyons Village will continue to be free.

Updated: September 1, 2022 at 11:20 AM MDT
An earlier version of this report did not make clear that any city restaurant incentives would be aimed at shoppers and diners rather than PCMR visitors.