MANITOU SPRINGS They say nothing in life is free.
In Manitou Springs, that now includes parking.
The days of free on-street parking in the business district downtown and along Ruxton Avenue, the crowded street that leads up the Manitou Incline, are about to end. The city is eliminating the three-hour time limit and plans to start charging for on-street parking this week.
For the first couple of weeks, parking enforcement officers will be lenient as people get used to the new system, though they will still be issuing tickets, said David Gagnon, the city's parking manager. Normal parking enforcement will begin May 25, he said.
'There's been a lot of talk and a lot of studies done, a lot of brainstorming on how to relieve some of the parking problems, ' Gagnon said.
'We kept coming back to a paid parking situation and setting up residential parking programs like we're going to be doing in the Ruxton corridor going up towards the Incline and the Cog Railway area, ' he said. 'It's been in the works for quite a long time. '
Parking will be charged by the hour at one of the many payment kiosks that have been installed on Manitou, Canon, Park and Ruxton avenues.
Parking rates are $1 an hour for the first 3 hours, $2 an hour for the next 2 hours, and $3 an hour after 5 hours. Under that rate structure, the maximum is $28 a day.
Of course, motorists could just move their vehicles to a different parking spot after the first three hours, but parking is at a premium in Manitou Springs.
'When I first visited Manitou Springs last month, I could tell right off the bat there was a parking problem, ' said Gagnon, who recently started his job. 'There's a lack of parking spaces, a lack of turnover and just a lot of congestion. '
The kiosks give users the option of receiving a text when the time is about to expire.
'You can actually extend by phone if you'd like, ' Gagnon said. 'Another option if you want to extend your time, you can go to any one of the kiosks. You don't have to go back to the same one you did before. '
The kiosks will accept coins or credit cards for payment. Only some will accept bills. Change machines will be scattered throughout downtown.
Gagnon said users will need to enter their license plate number.
The kiosk will generate a receipt, which doesn't have to be placed inside the vehicle.
Gagnon, who has been in the parking business for 19 years, said experience tells him that paid parking won't hurt local merchants.
In fact, he said, it will probably help them.
'You'll get that turnover a lot more often, ' he said.
Gagnon said Manitou Springs has two full-time parking enforcement officers and hired two part-timers and is hiring a third. He said he didn't have revenue projections from the paid parking.
'The parking program is going to help the city as they progress forward in looking at other parking options and ways to fund those, like taking one of the off-street lots and maybe putting a second deck on that, ' he said.
The city is also offering a free shuttle from May 19 to Sept. 7. The shuttle will run along Manitou Avenue and connect to the Cog Railway and Manitou Incline along Ruxton Avenue.
The shuttle will run daily every 20 minutes from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. and every 30 minutes from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Contact Daniel ChacOn: 476-1623 Twitter @danieljchacon Facebook Daniel Chacon