Downtown Colorado Springs and Old Colorado City visitors likely won’t need to worry about paying parking meters or garage fees until about mid-May, while measures to slow the spread of coronavirus keep activity below normal.
City officials had originally planned to suspend paid parking enforcement through Thursday to help encourage more residents to pick up food from downtown restaurants. Now, parking will remain free through May 11, when the city officials will reevaluate the need to start enforcement, said Scott Lee, parking enterprise director for the city.
“We will obviously give as much notice as possible,” Lee said.
City officials are waiting for parking demand to rise as downtown businesses bring more employees back to work before they start monitoring meters and parking garages, he said. Under Gov. Jared Polis’ “Safer-at-Home” order, nonessential employers can have no more than 50% of their employees in their buildings.
Manitou Springs expects to restart paid parking enforcement May 4 and plans to donate revenues to buy protective equipment to help Manitou Springs businesses ward off the spread of COVID-19, according to a news release. Denver doesn’t expect to start up parking enforcement until after May 8 when the city’s stay-at-home order lifts.
Once Colorado Springs’ parking enforcement resumes, 25 spaces scattered around downtown and a few in Old Colorado City near restaurants will remain free for those picking up to-go meals at least through the end of May, Lee said.
The city set up spaces for meal pickup on March 17 with help from the Downtown Partnership of Colorado Springs and Greater Downtown Colorado Springs Business Improvement District.
“We have advocated for — and the city has supported — retaining the pickup spaces for the foreseeable future. Even as restaurants eventually open up, seating will be very restricted and the need to rely on delivery and curbside pickup will remain,” said Susan Edmondson, president and CEO of the Downtown Partnership.
Delivery and curbside pickup have been a lifeline for restaurants but bring in only a fraction of typical revenue, she said. The approach also doesn’t work well for some cuisines, she said.
Under the “Safer-at-Home” order, a date has not yet been announced when restaurants can start offering dine-in meals again.
Customers must remain in their cars while using the spaces marked by orange hoods and wait for their food to be brought to their vehicles, which helps the spots turn over more quickly, Lee said.
Downtown was a ghost town in late March, but traffic has been picking up since early April, Lee said.
“I see quite a few people downtown on a daily basis,” he said.
Skirted Heifer crew member Kaitlyn Repp said the suspension of parking enforcement seems to have helped business at the burger restaurant.
“It seems like it’s definitely easier for people to park right out front,” she said.
The city is expected to see some revenue losses from suspending parking enforcement at meters and garages, but it’s still unclear how much of a hit it might take, Lee said. Parking revenues were expected to be about $6.5 million in 2020, he said.
“It will be a leaner year than we expected,” Lee said.
The city is trimming expenses associated with parking by not scheduling cashiers at the garages and delaying some projects, Lee said.
The parking department has maintained significant revenue from employers and employees who pay for monthly parking passes in city garages. Some visitors have also continued to pay meters, he said.
In January, the city raised parking rates and extended the hours it will charge for parking into the evenings and on Sundays to pay for deferred maintenance and updated technology.
Enforcing paid parking on Sundays hit a snag when the city discovered an ordinance prohibiting it in late January and early February. The city stopped enforcing paid Sunday parking after it found the ordinance, Lee said.
Lee asked the Colorado Springs City Council to allow the city to charge for parking Sunday this week and was met largely with approval. Councilman Wayne Williams asked the ordinance be revised to protect free parking on Sunday mornings, which benefits churches, and only allow the city to charge for parking starting at 1 p.m. on Sundays. The city had planned to charge for parking from 1 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Sundays.
“I am hoping the administration is willing to work with us on this,” Williams said.
Councilwoman Yolanda Avila opposed charging for parking on Sundays to encourage families to spend time downtown on those days.
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