Downtown parking

No available parking in downtown Durango – it’s a perennial complaint, and the myths and perceptions remain.

The truth is, about 45 percent of the time there is always legal parking to be found downtown. This doesn’t apply when we’ve got big events – such as the Snowdown Parade, on Noel Night or on the Fourth of July – but it is true for the majority of the remaining days of the year. It just might not be right in front of your destination, but tell me, where can you go that you can park at a doorstep?

The last time I was shopping at a “big city” mall, I had to park in a multistory parking structure and what would be the equivalent of many blocks away from the mall entrance – not even including the distance to the store I was headed to. People do that every day across this country, walking amid concrete. Why do we complain when we can stroll through a beautiful downtown to get to our destination?

The next time you come to town, don’t fret when there’s nowhere to park between the 500 block of Main Avenue and the 800 block or on the adjacent side streets. That is the most congested area in downtown. Look on East Second Avenue. Check Narrow Gauge. What about those spaces on Ninth Street by First National Bank of Durango? And there’s always something up by Buckley Park. We’ve posted a parking availability map on our website, www.downtowndurango.org, so do take a look.

The issue of parking has become exacerbated this year with the new “smart” parking meters and the price increase to $1 per hour on Main and cross streets, 75 cents per hour elsewhere. (Though, remember parking is free on weekends, major holidays and evenings after 6)

Despite the rumors, the city really doesn’t want to issue citations. The city is trying to manage parking behavior by initiating options. A great way to be prepared for parking anywhere downtown is to purchase a parking “smart card” at the Transit Center. You can load the card with as much money as desired, and then you will always be able to plug the meters. Also, the meters on Main and the side streets to the alleys take credit cards.

Employee parking is and has been for years, a nemesis. Several downtown merchants are staunch advocates for moving employee parking off Main. Many provide smart cards to employees as a benefit for parking at the 10-hour meters on the edges of downtown. Others provide parking passes for the city lots. More need to join the bandwagon.

I realize, especially in the middle of a winter storm, that employees don’t want to walk more than a few feet, but for the majority of the year, it’s great to get out and walk a little bit, get some exercise and appreciate more of our downtown.

My solution, because the Business Improvement District office is in the 800 block of Main, is to purchase a pass for the Transit Center lot. It’s two blocks away, and there’s always parking there. For $30 a month – with discounts if you purchase a three- or six-month pass – you’re guaranteed a spot (at least for now). And do the math: If you’re regularly downtown and plugging a dollar an hour into a meter on Main, what is more economical? And a bonus is, if you’re parking in a city lot, you’ve left a parking space for someone who wants to shop, dine or recreate downtown.

Though the process has been slow, the city is seeing a steady improvement in managing parking and keeping as many slots available downtown as possible. For example, during the first six months of this year, the city saw a 34 percent increase in parking-lot pass revenue, so people are making use of the lots!

Coming up in the next months and into next year, the BID will launch a concerted effort to help community members grapple with the “challenge” of parking downtown. We’ll have incentives and ideas to help improve the whole downtown experience for everyone.

The bottom line is – and this is something that all of our visitors notice – downtown Durango, with its perceived limited availability of parking, is hopping. As the executive director of the organization with a mission to sustain the economic viability of the district, I see this as a good thing.

So get creative and consider the options when coming to downtown Durango. Give downtown parking a chance. You’ll not only have a great experience, but your patronage will provide an economic boost for the benefit of all.

Tim Walsworth is executive director of the Durango Business Improvement District. Reach him at timw@downtowndurango.org or 375-5068. The Durango BID office is located at 850½ Main Ave., Suite 2.

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