As the town creates a new set of parking policies, START is looking for ways to complement the effort to reduce congestion and encourage alternative modes of transportation.
The Town Council is considering recommendations from a parking management plan it commissioned, many of which would incentivize downtown employees to leave prime parking spots open. It has not chosen which to enact, or how long it will take to do so, but transportation officials want to be prepared.
“Whatever they do,” START board member Wes Gardner said, “[we need] to be oriented to pick up those people when they’re forced to change their behaviors.”
The potential changes to parking regulations include a system of escalating fines for violations, longer hours of enforcement and four-hour parking at the Home Ranch lot. If none of those steps do the trick, paid parking is the likely outcome. But the council hopes to approve some of the simpler measures before this summer’s peak tourism season and then study how effective they were.
So far START hasn’t been prominent in the conversation, Director Darren Brugman said, “but, obviously, it is critical to us that we’re paying attention and [are] aware of what’s going on.”
As the town rolls out its updated policies, compelling people to rethink their habits, START wants to convince new riders to take the bus.
One way to do that, board member Cathy Kehr said, is to ensure that wherever employees end up parking, it falls along the town shuttle route. For example, the plan envisions employees using the parking garage — after Taxi2Fly spaces are shifted to the fairgrounds — as well as other outlying downtown lots and streets.
Once the town’s plan is in place, Gardner said it might make more sense to use the Stilson lot as a park-and-ride for employees commuting from Victor and Driggs in Idaho.
Gardner thinks a few tweaks to Town Shuttle schedules could go a long way. If bus schedules were aligned with the times most people need to arrive at work — a few minutes before each hour — he believes the bus could be a viable substitute for driving.
He said schedule changes are arduous, but they could fit into an upcoming route analysis START has planned.
Gardner also suggested finding a way to interact with the downtown business community. That way START could encourage owners and their employees to keep their cars off Town Square and the adjacent blocks and advocate the alternatives START offers.
Seadar Rose Davis, vice chairwoman of the board, suggested board members could form a subcommittee for the purpose.
“They’re looking around trying to figure out what their other options are,” Gardner said. “This is the perfect opportunity for START to make sure our service is as efficient as possible.”