Main Street employees upset about paid parking plan
One business even considers moving
When the snow starts falling and tourists crowd the streets, there will be more cars on the roads, especially in popular places like Main Street. Park City is hoping to alleviate traffic with a new paid parking plan, but the solution is not sitting well with many Main Street businesses.
One of the biggest changes Park City is planning for Main Street is the removal of free parking at China Bridge on Swede Alley. The lot is often used by employees who work on the street. But, come Dec. 15, only those parking before 5 p.m. or carpooling will be able to park for free in the structure, said Kenzie Coulson, parking and fleet administrative supervisor for the city.
The city has been discussing the new paid parking plan publicly since early summer. City staff spent the last few months going door to door to speak with businesses and get feedback, but some workers are still upset about the change. Current China Bridge business and employee parking permits will be valid until the change.
After that, employees working late shifts who do not or cannot carpool can park at the free employee parking lot at the Homestake Employee Lot on 1875 Homestake Road. Shuttles will take employees to the Old Town Transit Center, according to the city’s website.
Kandi Goff, one of the managers at Flanagan’s on Main Street, lives in Salt Lake City and commutes every day, along with all but one of her coworkers at the restaurant.
“I have an hour commute as it is, and to throw paid parking on top of that, it’s not even worth it. It’s almost not worth it to work up here,” she said.
Since carpooling is not an option for her, she said she will be forced to add 20 minutes to her commute by taking the shuttle into work. Or, she could pay $3 an hour.
Coulson said by adding paid parking, the city is trying to solve the problem of congestion along one of the busiest roads in Park City. People parking in China Bridge will only be charged after 5 p.m., since that is when the structure begins to fill during peak season.
She hopes the effort will ultimately provide businesses with more open parking spots for visitors.
“We see business owners worried that people are not choosing to go to Main Street because the availability of parking has been so slim,” she said. “We really just want to make sure that Main Street stays vital.”
Some have said that the City Council should build more parking, but Coulson said that would only add to the traffic.
Goff agreed that there could be some benefits to the parking changes, but she also said that tourists are not usually driving cars and therefore do not need parking spots anyway.
“A lot of them are walking or taking Ubers as it is,” she said. “We’re a ski town. We have nothing but tourists.”
Jim Bizily, owner of Park City Rental Properties, does not agree with the plan to make China Bridge a paid lot either. He fears that employees might leave his business because of it.
“Really, taking away China Bridge from all of our employees is going to have the worst impact that could ever happen to us as a company,” he said. “When our lease comes up, we’ll probably move.”
Park City Rental Properties has not made any final decisions, but Bizily said he is waiting to see how the changes play out.
Under the new plan, businesses will still be able to purchase at least one Blue Square permit, with which one can park at China Bridge or Gateway Plaza. Additional permits will be available after each business is given one, Coulson said.
Some businesses on Main Street support the new parking system, but several declined to comment.
Michael Barille, executive director of the Historic Park City Alliance, has been a liaison to both Main Street businesses and the Council during the process, and he said the Council has tried to come up with realistic solutions, but change is hard.
“It will take some behavioral adjustments and it will be hard the first year,” he said. “But we can work through the kinks and make adjustments as necessary. We’ll just have to see.”
One problem the Council discussed at its last meeting on Oct. 24 was what will happen to the Homestake Employee Lot during the Sundance Film Festival, since the parking area is commonly used for the event. No decision has been made yet.
Another suggestion that the city took into account was the schedule of the employee shuttle bus, Coulson said. After speaking with nighttime employees who would use the shuttle, the hours were set to 1 p.m. to 4 a.m.
“The whole project has been based on our outreach efforts,” she said.
To learn more about the parking plan, visit parkcity.org. A feedback tab is available for anyone to submit their opinions.
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