The oval-shaped parking lot near Woodmen Road and Interstate 25 is supposed to be for folks trying to save fossil fuels and reduce pollution by carpooling and buspooling. (Is that even a word?)
But lately the 1.6-acre Park-n-Ride lot, at the corner of Corporate Drive and Mark Dabling Boulevard, has become a Park-n-Walk lot for students taking medical assistant classes at Tiffany Square or for folks who work at nearby restaurants and car dealerships.
Even worse, the carpoolers who use the lot report that it’s has become a Park-n-Freeforall because its 130 spaces are no longer marked. Without painted stripes, motorists have begun squeezing into tiny spots or parking at strange angles to protect themselves from door damage.
Meanwhile, a beautiful new 6.2-acre parking lot about 150 yards away sits empty. It was built by owners of the Tiffany Square to lure new tenants to its mall.
The odd situation was pointed out by reader Jake Smail, who noted a July 16, 2011, story in The Gazette reported the city was negotiating with Tiffany Sqaure to swap the old Park-n-Ride lot for the new lot, giving commuters more parking spaces and room for buses to safely turn around while providing closer parking for mall tenants and customers.
But there was never a swap. And two years later, the new lot remains chained closed as the Park-n-Ride lot deteriorates.
“Almost all of the parking space lines are nearly invisible,” Smail wrote. “There are huge potholes. Debris accumulates in the lot and the arrows indicating the appropriate one-way traffic flow have also worn away, creating a potentially dangerous traffic situation.”
Even worse, Smail said he was unhappy with the answers he got from a city employee when he called to report the condition of the lot.
He was told the lot was property of the Colorado Department of Transportation, which used it as a stop on its Front Range Express, or FREX, regional commuter bus service. CDOT, not the city, Smail learned, is responsible for resurfacing the lot.
“It seems so senseless that those of us trying to do the right thing by taking traffic off the road for long commutes are relegated to this cramped, neglected lot while the new, much larger lot sits vacant and closed off right beside it,” Smail wrote.
He wanted to know if the swap is, indeed, dead or if anything can be done to improve the lot.
So I contacted the city and got a call back from Craig Blewitt, transit services manager.
Blewitt confirmed about everything Smail said: CDOT owns the lot and is responsible for resurfacing it.
The city picks up trash and pays for lighting the lot as well as painting stripes for parking spaces.
“But the pavement is in such poor condition that striping is difficult,” Blewitt said.
He added that the lot is, indeed, being used by non-commuters, which is “inappropriate.” But he said it’s up to the state to evict those parking illegally.
So I called Mike Timlin, CDOT bus operations manager, who offered some hope for the lot.
“The pavement has deteriorated really badly and we’re going to repave it,” Timlin said.
The work is expected to be finished before a new interregional express bus, a là defunct FREX, begins service in early 2015 serving Colorado Springs, Monument, Fort Collins, some mountain towns and Denver.
Timlin said the state is trying to figure out exactly where the buses will stop because he doesn’t want them to swing through the cramped lot, as FREX buses did.
“The entrance and shape of the lot is not conducive to bringing 45-foot buses in there,” Timlin said. “And there’s a safety issue when you mingle cars and buses like that.”
Ideally, he’d love to have the larger, newer lot across the creek with its 400-plus parking spaces for his buses and carpoolers and let Tiffany Square patrons have the lot closer to the mall.
“But Tiffany Square owners didn’t want to go through with the swap,” he said.
Why not? And why is the new lot closed? I called the management company repeatedly, seeking answers. But my calls were not returned.
Timlin said he’ll be in touch with Tiffany Square’s owners soon to warn its tenants not to use the Park-n-Ride lot.
“We want it to go back to the use it was designed for: carpools and vanpools and our new interregional express bus service,” Timlin said.