- Rhonda Van Pelt
- Constant backups along Ruxton Avenue have made life miserable for residents.
Parking close to the Manitou Incline and Barr Trail will cost twice as much, following action last week by Manitou Springs City Council.
Councilors raised the rate at the Barr Trail Parking Lot to $20 per day and hiked the rate on Ruxton Avenue for nonresidents above the first block to $10 per hour.
Councilors also voted to double the fine for parking without a permit in the Residential Permit Parking areas from $35 to $70 for a first offense.
In a related action, Council expanded the Ruxton Avenue Residential Permit Parking area to include the 400 block of Ruxton and all of Winter Street.
Council raised the parking fees and fines in the face of a recommendation from the Parking Authority Board that the rates not be increased and testimony by Incline users citing negative consequences.
In a memo to Council, the Parking Board stated that its members were considering a parking reservation system and signage to identify open parking spaces at the Barr Lot. In addition, the board will be budgeting in 2017 for a project to determine how previous fee increases affected Ruxton traffic.
Board members thought these programs might have more of an impact on traffic than raising fees.
"Study is warranted in order to make informed decisions and avoid the appearance of random decisions," the board's memo stated.
The board did recommend that the Ruxton Residential Permit Parking zone be expanded but unanimously agreed to oppose the fee increases at a work session.
The board "requests discussions such as raising parking fees be vetted first through the PAB, which was created to advise Council on these matters," the memo stated.
Ruxton Avenue residents have been vocal about the noise, traffic, lack of parking and loss of quality of life they have experienced since use of the Incline was legalized three years ago.
But several Incline users told Council they did not think raising the fees and fines would solve these problems.
"We see the Incline as an asset and a huge economic driver," said Susan Davies, executive director of the Trails and Open Space Coalition. "If we make it so prohibitive for people to use the Incline and pay those high fees, I think it would be a real travesty, given the effort that's been put in. Please keep it the public asset and the treasure that we have."
Incline user Michael Everson said parking near the Incline has become more scarce and expensive in the past three years. He termed the fee increases "excessive."
"It's unfair to people that are just coming to visit," Everson said. "I use the Incline a lot and I would like to see it be more accessible."
Sandi Yukman, who said she represented many Incline enthusiasts, asked that Council consider gathering input from stakeholders including residents, business owners, land owners, users and the city of Colorado Springs.
"I am simply asking you to reconsider a more robust process before making changes," Yukman said.
"I find it interesting that with the Incline being closed for a month that community angst is down and nonresident angst is up," Councilor Randy Hodges said "What we're trying to do is protect our residents, who have been very vocal about the problems.
"What we're proposing to do is to encourage people to park in the parking lot we paid $650,000 for and ride the shuttle."
Hodges added that he did not think the fee increases would resolve all of the problems, "but it's one more step to encourage people to use what we've put in place and try to get a little relief for our residents."
Mayor Nicole Nicoletta noted that Council has had many discussions about issues related to the Incline and the Cog Railway.
"I have heard from a resident who's concerned that first responders can't get to his house in time," Nicoletta said. "One hundred percent, our first priorities are Manitou Springs residents and public safety."
Councilor Bob Todd agreed that "we do have to incrementally move forward" but said, "We need to support the citizens advisory boards."
Council voted 5-2 to approve Nicoletta's motion to implement the fee and fine increases, with Todd and Councilor Becky Elder dissenting.
There is a break for hikers using the Barr Trail. The new fee schedule specifies that $15 of the $20 parking fee for the Barr Trail lot is refundable upon validation at Barr Camp.
Parking in the Ruxton Residential Parking area is open to the public from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. It is reserved for residential permit holders during other hours and on Saturday and Sunday.
The fees for second and third offenses of unpermitted parking were raised to $100 for a second offense and $150 for a third offense in a 12-month period.
The Incline currently is closed to the public while repairs, which began in late August, continue until December.
This story first appeared in the Pikes Peak Bulletin.