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A proposed "Phase 1" Garden of the Gods shuttle loop was displayed on a poster board at the March 12 transportation-study open house in the Westside Community Center. The route is shown in dark blue, starting from a proposed Rock Ledge Ranch shuttle parking lot (southwest of 30th Street and Gateway Road). The next stop would be the Garden of the Gods Visitor Center (outlined in light blue, at right), by way of an existing tunnel under 30th Street). From there, the vehicle would drive to Gateway Road's T-intersection with Juniper Way Loop (a short walking distance from the Central Garden) and then back to the Rock Ledge lot.
Courtesy of Volpe National Transportation Systems Center and Colorado Springs Parks

Suggested GoG traffic solutions include shuttle service, car-free days, parking fees

March 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
Ben Rasmussen, team lead for the Volpe National Transportation Systems Center, answers questions from citizens during the public open house on the Garden of the Gods transportation study in the Westside Community Center.
Westside Pioneer photo
this congestion has led to vehicle queues a mile long outside the main parking lot.
       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.
Colorado Springs Parks Director Karen Palus speaks at the Garden of the Gods transportation study open house.
Westside Pioneer photo

       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:
  • Pilot shuttle system during summer months using the shortest circulator route.
  • Increase parking at Rock Ledge Ranch with the most minimal impact to the site.
  • Construct ADA-accessible trail to the north side of Gateway Road.
  • Establish pilot opportunities for car-free hours or days at the Garden of the Gods.
  • Develop and implement a strong marketing plan to implement and promote alternatives to driving a private vehicle through the Garden.
           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
    At the open house, the public was ask to "vote" with stickies on various transportation options for the Garden of the Gods. This poster board, created by the Volpe National Transportation Systems Center, showed three types of shuttle vehicles and asked people to pick the one they liked best. As seen in this photo (shot at the end of the meeting), most people preferred the tram style.
    Westside Pioneer photo
    on the west side of 30th Street), then go to the Visitor Center (on the east side of 30th), to the T-intersection of Gateway and Juniper Way Loop (close to a half-mile west of the center and a short walk from the Central Garden) and back to Rock Ledge.
           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.”
    Fifty-some people attended the March 12 open house. This photo was taken near the end of the session in the Westside Community Center, as attendees were starting to leave.
    Westside Pioneer photo
    A contentious issue was whether a fee should be charged for parking in the Garden. During her talk, Palus said that while the early 1900s Perkins donation of the park to the city stipulated free admission, the city believes the no-cost restriction does not apply to parking. The stickies regarding a fee were about half for and half against.
           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
    (Outdoors: Garden of the Gods)

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