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Sundance parking: bring more quarters

by Jay Hamburger OF THE RECORD STAFF

People driving to Main Street during the Sundance Film Festival will likely need more than a handful of quarters to park on the street or in Swede Alley.

City Hall early in the week unveiled its suggested parking prices, saying it wants to expand a pricier parking program introduced during the 2006 festival.

Under the proposal, which the Park City Council plans to consider on Thursday, the government would charge people parking on Swede Alley, the most significant change.

If approved, people parking in the China Bridge garage expansion and on Swede Alley would be charged $20 for a day. Normally, parking there is free.

Levels one through three of the old China Bridge garage would be restricted to people paying $300 for the festival or upgrading their $75 annual pass. The upgrade costs another $225. The fourth level would be set aside for people who hold the $75 pass.

Meanwhile, the city wants to continue the festival hike in prices on Main Street parking. The prices on Main Street would be $1 for the first hour, $5 for the second hour and $10 for the third hour, the same prices charged in 2006. There would be a three-hour limit on Main Street. Usually, parking on Main Street costs $1 per hour.

"It’s fairly typical of special events. This really is a major special event," says Brian Anderson, who manages City Hall’s parking program.

The Sandridge lots, situated off Marsac Avenue and holding about 100 spaces, are planned to be the only free public parking lots in the Main Street core.

Anderson says the government did not receive complaints about parking prices after the 2006 festival. He says people visiting during Sundance are accustomed to paying higher rates for parking.

"I was expecting a few but we didn’t get any," Anderson says about complaints after the January festival.

Anderson expects the City Council will approve the higher prices on Thursday.

Sundance is scheduled Jan. 18-28 and festival week is typically the busiest time of the year in Park City. Scores of people descend on Main Street and the opening weekend is notoriously busy.

If the plan is approved, the city would construct temporary parking attendant booths on Swede Alley, at China Bridge and at the flagpole lot at the northern end of Swede Alley.

Traffic is usually some of the worst of the year, with throngs of movie lovers, partiers and celebrity gawkers driving to Main Street, where lots of the festival’s revelry occurs. Gridlock oftentimes greets the drivers and Anderson acknowledges that the higher parking fees are an attempt to discourage people from driving to Main Street.

"I suppose it will deter those who are price sensitive," Anderson says.

City Hall is poised to net $92,000 if the higher fees are approved, according to a report Anderson submitted to Mayor Dana Williams and the City Council.

Officials at City Hall and festival organizers prefer people take buses, either Park City’s citywide free system or a fleet of free festival buses that runs a constant loop of Sundance screening spots.

"Less hunting for spots," Anderson says about the potential effect of the higher prices. "We think it will have a pretty big effect."

Anderson says he realizes that people arriving for Sundance will gladly pay higher prices to park downtown, meaning that traffic will probably be bad again.

"Not everyone will give up their car," he says.


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