Suggested GoG traffic solutions include shuttle service, car-free days, parking feesMarch 13, 2018
Most people use cars to visit the Garden of the Gods. But they can't always find a parking space.
The famous Colorado Springs park is on "average 450 parking spaces short during the summer and up to 600 during peak times,” a city-contracted transportation study states, adding that
With free admission to the Garden, the city has no way of stopping people from coming. But the City Parks Department is looking for ways to reduce the number of cars, especially on summer weekends.
The hope is to start experimenting with solutions this tourist season, it was revealed at a public open house March 12 in the Westside Community Center.
Among the city ideas presented at the 1˝-hour session were a shuttle system, car-free days and even a fee to park at lots within the Garden. However, no fee would be charged to park at a new, 400-space shuttle lot recommended in a flat area of the Rock Ledge Ranch Historic Site between Gateway Road and its current parking area.
What will be implemented this year has not yet been determined. “We're still in the information-gathering stages,” Parks Director Karen Palus told the 50-some meeting attendees, saying that the open house itself was a key part of that.
But she also noted a sense of urgency, commenting, “We need to do something.”
Cost issues were not part of the presentation. Palus deflected a citizen question on the subject, saying that until action decisions are made, there's no way to pinpoint expenses. Funding sources also were not addressed.
After the meeting, Palus said that she and her staff expect to announce the Garden's summer transportation strategy as early as April 1. With tourist season only weeks away, to wait any longer would not leave enough preparation time, she elaborated.
The open house offered citizens a chance to view - and respond to - various options proposed by the Volpe National Transportation Systems Center. City Parks contracted Volpe for the above-noted transportation study about a year ago. Funding came from the Garden of the Gods Foundation, which owns and operates the Visitor & Nature Center (just east of the park, at Gateway and 30th) and donates a percentage of its proceeds to the park.
At the open house, Ben Rasmussen, Volpe's team lead, gave a Power Point presentation including the consultant's “Recommendations for Summer 2018,” as follows:
Explaining the shuttle system proposal, Rasmussen outlined a continuous-loop plan. He said the shuttle would load up at the proposed Rock Ledge lot (which is
The Volpe study describes that as a “Phase 1” loop, with future Phases 2 and 3 involving longer distances and using other roads in the park.
Adding to the priority for traffic congestion relief, Rasmussen asserted that the Garden is growing in popularity. The park's estimated total of 5.8 million visitors in 2017 is believed to be twice that of five years ago, he said.
One person at the meeting suggested that congestion could be reduced by making bicycles available for people to use at the park. Palus replied that a bike-rental service at the Visitor Center (separate from the Volpe study) is to start this year.
Open house attendees were given stickies to put on poster boards - green for themselves as residents and yellow ones to imagine themselves as tourists.
One issue that attracted yellow and green participation was the shuttle parking lot proposal. Although Volpe's Rock Ledge suggestion garnered numerous stickies, the option for an “off-site” location (as yet unidentified) drew slightly more.
There was also a citizen idea, which attracted several stickies itself, calling for a “regional solution, including a parking lot and shuttles to all tourist attractions.”
The concept of monthly, all-day car-free days at the Garden gained noticeable sticky support. The ratio in favor was about 4 to 1 over the “never” option.
Attendees also had a chance to state their preferences on types of shuttle vehicles. The popular choice was a tram, whose lack of sides makes loading and unloading easier than a shuttle van or bus.
Before the study came before the public, the city and Volpe had met multiple times over several months with various "stakeholders" - entities with interests in the Garden of the Gods - to get their ideas. These included the Garden of the Gods Foundation, several city departments, other area governments, the Friends of the Garden of the Gods, the Trails and Open Space Coalition, the Pleasant Valley Neighborhood Association and several nearby or affected businesses and nonprofits.
No future meetings with the public at large are planned at this time, Palus said.
Westside Pioneer article