Plowed in car

Jackson’s winter parking rules went into effect Friday, which means drivers must keep their cars off the streets between 3 and 7 a.m. A town resident recently pitched the idea of testing alternate parking on some streets. People could park on one side some nights and on the other side the other nights.

Often as the winter parking ban approaches, those who must keep their cars off the streets from 3 to 7 a.m. start to wonder if there isn’t a better solution.

The obvious one — to allow parking along alternating sides of the street each night — hasn’t fared well politically. Over the years, elected officials have repeatedly shut it down, citing concerns about cost and logistics.

As a result, the ban has persisted, closing off 24/7 parking from Nov. 1 to April 15 each year so snowplow drivers can clear the streets without interruption.

But Kevin Cochary, a town resident, recently pitched a new version of the alternate parking idea: a pilot project in a limited area to test the merits of the strategy without fully committing to it across Jackson.

“It’s not an all or nothing thing,” he said. “It’s not like they have to say, ‘We’re going to do it across town forever more.’ It’s just a small demonstration project in one part of town.”

Alternating parking

In a recent Town Council meeting Cochary proposed changing the rules for the area encompassing Karns, Kelly, Hansen and Simpson avenues between Cache Street and Flat Creek Drive, where Cochary said his neighbors “have a lot of difficulty parking in the winter.”

Signs on one side of those roads would explain, for example, that parking is allowed there on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and signs on the other side would say the other nights of the week.

Cochary is far from the first to look for ways to move toward on-street winter parking. Town Manager Larry Pardee said it seems to come up every three or four years.

In 2015, David Vandenberg, then a planning commissioner, urged the council to pursue on-street winter parking, calling it “an incredibly underutilized resource.”

Around the same time, as the town was rewriting its land development regulations, a number of developers, architects and property owners raised the same concern.

Essentially, even as officials work to fit more dense housing into the town, parking requirements prevent developers from maximizing housing. Any space that must be devoted to parking leaves less room for homes or forces developers to build costly underground spaces.

No change this year

It would seem the intuitive answer is to allow as much curbside parking as possible year round and in turn allow developers to build less off-street parking for residents. But Pardee said it isn’t so simple.

The bottom line for the town, he said, is that it’s not going to happen this year. He said the transition would require major changes to plowing operations, and would likely lead to increased ticketing and towing for cars left on the wrong side of the road as residents get used to the new routine.

Overall, Pardee said, “you can’t fathom” the cost to the Public Works and Police departments. But, he said, “if that’s the decision this community wants, then we’ll have to figure out a funding mechanism.”

Maybe next winter?

He said the town has already explored the idea at least twice in recent years, during the 2012 update to the Comprehensive Plan and again in 2018, during the update of the land development regulations.

Pardee said he has asked the Colorado Association of Ski Towns, to do a study on alternate winter parking in Jackson’s peer communities, but the association hasn’t yet been able to.

As far as Pardee is aware, if any Rocky Mountain towns have taken that approach, it’s only on a small scale, he said.

Mayor Pete Muldoon agreed, saying, “In the other communities we’ve looked at, it seems like it hasn’t worked that well.”

But Muldoon said he would like to allow on-street winter parking if it is deemed feasible, and Pardee said the time for another conversation about alternate parking may be approaching, perhaps within the next couple of years. At that point the town could assess which areas suit the strategy and how to roll it out.

“I think we’re getting close,” Pardee said. “The answer’s not no. It’s about timing and planning to be as strategic and efficient as possible.”

Contact Cody Cottier at 732-5911 or town@jhnewsandguide.com.

Cody Cottier covers town and state government. He grew up with a view of the Olympic Mountains, and after graduating Washington State University he traded it for a view of the Tetons. Odds are the mountains are where you’ll find him when not on deadline.

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