Parking problems abound
January 23, 2009
Brad Belcher does not measure his Sundance Film Festival experience exclusively by how many movies he goes to, how many celebrities he sees or the number of parties he is invited to.
Belcher, who is a dispatcher with a towing company, counts the number of cars that his company, Belcher’ Park City Towing, must take away during the film festival. The local tow-truck companies are usually busy during the festival. Crowds of people drive to Park City and then leave their cars in places where parking is either prohibited or strictly regulated.
Belcher says business was solid through the first days of the festival but in line with past years. Towing calls peaked between Friday and Sunday, and they started declining on Tuesday.
During a typical Sundance, Belcher’s firm will tow between 75 and 100 vehicles, approximately 10 per day. He says the number will likely be between 50 and 60 this year.
"It’s been no different than every other year. People are parking where they’re not supposed to," Belcher says.
His company tows cars from public streets and privately controlled parking lots. The Park City Police Department reported numerous parking problems during the opening weekend of the festival.
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Parking complaints are common during Sundance, with the streets close to Main Street especially popular with people searching for parking spots. Parking on many of those streets, though, are regulated through a permit system.
Some of the complaints lodged to the Police Department during the opening weekend included.
On Jan. 18 at 7:26 p.m., someone called the police from Woodside Avenue complaining that somebody parked in front of the house.
On Jan. 18 at 5:20 p.m., parking problems were reported at the Marsac Avenue-Hillside Avenue intersection. Earlier that day, at 3:44 p.m., parked cars were reportedly causing traffic problems at the same intersection.
On Jan. 18 at 3:53 p.m., a car reportedly was seen parked halfway out of a driveway on Park Avenue.
On Jan. 18 at 1:37 p.m., the police received a complaint about a vehicle parked on the Deer Valley Drive sidewalk close to the Old Town roundabout.
On Jan. 17 at 11:04 p.m., someone on King Road complained of parked cars on the street.
On Jan. 17 at 7:47 p.m., several cars reportedly were left in people’s driveways on Sandridge Avenue.
The opening weekend of Sundance is usually the busiest stretch of the festival, but complaints are common throughout the event.
"You have an influx of people in town and no place to park," Belcher says.
Festival organizers and City Hall officials encourage people to park in designated lots outside of Old Town and then take buses downtown. Park City increases parking charges in public lots close to Main Street in an effort to convince people to park in the outlying lots and using the buses.
Meanwhile, managers at businesses with large parking lots or well-placed parking spots are warning festival-goers not to park in the lots. Signs tell drivers that festival parking is prohibited. And some people who live in Old Town have for years tried to turn away drivers with signs discouraging them from parking outside their house.
Belcher says there have been tows from apartment complexes close to the Eccles Center, where popular Sundance films are shown, and from the lots outside Albertsons and Rite Aid. The two store lots are close to each other on Park Avenue, and they are situated close to festival shuttle lines and several Sundance venues.
"They only want their customers in there, in the store shopping," Belcher says, explaining that people park there and then leave from the nearby bus stop.
The Police Department and City Hall’s parking officers monitor the problems in Old Town. Phil Kirk, a captain in the Police Department, described the weekend’s illicitly parked cars as causing "some real problems for the residents" but "typical Sundance." He says, though, there were fewer issues this year.
City Hall in 2009, for the first time, put in place tight restrictions on Main Street parking, barring parking on both sides of the street in an effort to allow traffic to flow easier. Kirk says the no-parking restrictions on Main Street were successful in alleviating traffic, but he concedes they might have "magnified" the parking problems nearby.
"It just makes it totally unacceptable" to Main Street-area residents, Kirk says. "I can understand their frustration."