No paid parking yet as town clamps down on employees, time limits

JACKSON, Wyo. — With paid parking viewed as the next step, town officials voted to implement a few tweaks to free up spaces downtown by creating more frequent turnover and designating employees local businesses to park in lots rather than on-street.

“We are trying to create better turnover to help businesses and employees,” said Jim Stanford at a town workshop earlier this week. “This is the last chance for the public if we do not want to have paid parking. If this doesn’t work, we are going to have to face the fact that paid parking may be inevitable.”

Town council members, with the exception of Mayor Pete Muldoon, agreed to try two-hour parking limits on streets within the downtown core and to limit Home Ranch stays to three hours.

The two-hour limit was the rule for many years until the town upped that to three hours after hearing concerns from restaurants, mainly, that an unhurried dining event could take as long as a viewing of The Irishman. Stanford argued that the two-hour limit would only be in effect from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. so anyone parking after 4 p.m. would be okay for the night.

Muldoon said a two-hour limit felt short to him and sends a message that visitors need to rush through their shopping.

“Studies show we don’t have a turnover problem. The problem is more people driving downtown that don’t need to,” Muldoon said.

Other possible solutions to free up parking included increasing and escalating fines for parking tickets. The Jackson Police Department, on average, issues more than 17 parking tickets a day. So, enforcement didn’t seem to be helping the issue.

Are dark parking lots safe at night?

Parking space availability assessment. (Town of Jackson)

One interesting side note of the parking discussion concerned safety issues of employees, specifically women, who felt uneasy about walking to their car after a night shift. Councilman Stanford brought it up after hearing that some locals felt scared to walk the Jackson streets at night.

“It was a surprise to me,” Stanford said, then asking fellow council member Hailey Morton Levinson whether she felt threatened.

Morton Levinson said she did feel unsafe at night but maybe that was just her. But the Chamber of Commerce also had concerns about the parking garage in particular.

“The general perception is one of poor safety and inadequate security. Females do not like entering the garage alone or walking in any of the floors at night. Currently, one employer in the group does not allow female staff to park there, many others chose to not use it at night,” the Chamber advised the town.

Some business owners, including Nicole Gill, took exception with the town trying to discourage employee parking in the Home Ranch lot by adding the 3-hour cap.

“Home Ranch is huge. I have a lot of employees who come over the pass. Lots of young women who are afraid to walk to the parking garage,” Gill told the council. “Employees are hard to find and keep. I encourage you to make it easier on them not harder. They are the reason why this town survives.”

The Chamber echoed her argument.

“Why reduce the productivity of Home Ranch, add concerns for safety at night, and penalize business owners who have a very hard time finding and keeping employees?” the Chamber wrote.

The discussion also focused on what locals were filling up Home Ranch the most. In addition to servers, cashiers, and other shift workers, council members have also heard complaints about outfitters who take their clients down the Snake River for example. They meet up at Home Ranch and the clients bogart the lot with their vehicle, usually all day.

Planner Paul Anthony said it was difficult to tell who was using the Home Ranch lot though Tyler Sinclair and Chief of Police Todd Smith admitted they have regularly used technology to track plates and gather information.

How they voted

Stanford felt the big issue was keeping downtown streets vibrant and increasing turnover in front of shops around the square. Employees, in his opinion, had plenty of other options including the Deloney lot, Center for the Arts, the parking garage, and outlying street parking.

Morton Levinson wanted to see 2-hour limit in Home Ranch as well but said she could live with three. Arne Jorgensen favored the 2-hour street, 3-hour public parking in Home Ranch. Jonathan Schechter said he’d go along provided it was understood that the measures would be viewed as a pilot project subject to reevaluation within a year or two.

The council voted 4-1 to change parking restrictions downtown to 2-hour limit on the street, 3-hour limits in Home Ranch during daytime hours.

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