How the city of Boulder managed parking demand in one of the country’s most popular historical landmarks
For nearly half a century, the state of Colorado has been a leader in the stewardship of land, environment and sustainability, striving to achieve cleaner air, water and public health for its residents. On any given crisp, cool day, you can see bikers, mountain climbers, hikers and runners taking in the clean air and well-protected scenery. It is no wonder, then, that the state’s natural landmarks are the first to be protected from potential threats, most recently addressed, vehicle congestion at Chautauqua Park.
The Client : Colorado Chautauqua
Boasting as one of Colorado’s top National Historic Landmarks, Chautauqua Park brings in more than half a million visitors each year. The landmark stretches 26 acres of land, adjoining public Open Space and Mountain Parks on two sides. The space is often used for hiking and recreational activities, while also drawing large crowds to ‘The Auditorium,’ a space that hosts live artists and educators; the likes of cellist Yo-Yo Ma and B.B. King, along with Stephen King and Rev. Jesse Jackson, among others. As such, the Chautauqua remains committed to preserving the area’s natural and cultural resources, it’s surrounding neighborhoods and continuing its historical and educational programs.
In recent years, as the city of Boulder rises in popularity (most recently being rated as the happiest city in America by National Geographic in 2017, the Colorado Chautauqua has faced a variety of issues. The bulk of those issues come from one popular supply & demand matter: Parking.
The City of Boulder and the Colorado Chautauqua Association (CCA) came together in 2015 when both parties acknowledged that the Chautauqua was facing difficulties in visitor transportation and mobilization.
For a variety of reasons, the vast majority of visitors arrive at the Chautauqua area by automobile. This situation, combined with the popularity of this area, creates traffic congestion, parking congestion and high greenhouse gas emission levels. In addition, several visitors park in the neighborhoods around the baseline of the park, which although permissible, has become a problem for permanent residents living in the area.
The following issues were summarized for Chautauqua Park:
- Inadequate parking supply for peak times during the year.
- Parking issues in the surrounding neighborhoods.
- Quality of life for residents
- Finding a place to park
- Vehicle circulation issues
- Pedestrian Access issues to Chautauqua Park:
- Drivers not yielding to pedestrians at crosswalks.
- Overcrowded parked vehicles encroaching pedestrian walk areas.
“The parties [The City of Boulder and the CCA] recognize that during peak periods, parking demand for all uses with and around Chautauqua far exceeds supply. Chautauqua needs a tailored access management strategy to balance the access of the variety of users and modes while also maintaining the natural, built, and historic environments. The movement of vehicles looking for parking presents safety issues and degrades the visitor experience. “
– From the 2015 lease signed between Colorado Chautauqua Association (CCA) and City of Boulder
To find a solution to these specific issues, the Chautauqua Access Management Plan (CAMP) was created. CAMP explored ways to manage existing demand for access to and from the Chautauqua area that minimized impacts to surrounding neighbors, visitors, and the area’s natural and cultural resources.
The CAMP pilot program was hence implemented to test a solution for 3 months in the summer of 2017. This ‘pilot program’ would manage parking in the Chautauqua historic core and surrounding neighborhoods and provide FREE shuttle service to and from Chautauqua from downtown and nearby parking lots. Once the 3-month test was completed, the City of Boulder would assess the results for permanent implementation.
The City of Boulder defined the following goals to be met during the testing period:
- Increased use of the free shuttle to and from Chautauqua.
- Reduction in traffic volume on Chautauqua’s Baseline Road/Increased parking supply for peak times during the year.
- Reduction of conflicts between automobiles and pedestrians in highly trafficked areas.
- Reasonable compliance with parking restrictions.
- Reduction of parking throughout adjacent neighborhoods.
To balance the entry of the variety of users and modes while also maintaining the natural, built, and historic environments, the City of Boulder chose to place 5 CALE CWT Pay-by-PlateMeters along the baseline of Chautauqua in 5 specific ‘Paid Parking’ Zones (Chautauqua Green, Ranger Cottage Lot, Baseline Road, McClintok Trailhead and North Neighborhood temporary NPP zone). The expectation was that a portion of visitors to Chautauqua would park in one of the alternative lots off site, taking the new free shuttle into the park. The shuttle would be funded by revenue collected by those who parked in ‘Paid Parking’ meter zones. During the 3 months, “Parking Ambassadors” would be put in place to answer questions about parking and shuttling, along with paid digital marketing to inform visitors before they arrived.
The CALE CWT Meters would be actively tested June 2017- August 2017. From a series of surveys and research finding peak visitor times, it was determined that the meters would be active solely on weekends from 8am to 5pm in the 5 specific areas. This totaled to 26 days, over 13 weekends. The meters would operate in pay-by-plate mode which uses the customer’s license plate to identity the vehicle’s status in Cale WebOffice. This allows compatibility with mobile payment platforms (such as WayToPark) along with supporting license plate recognition software for identification and enforcement purposes.
“The fact that the Cale CWT meters were compatible with mobile payment apps was very important in this process,” said Melissa Yates, Access & Parking Manager for the City of Boulder, “Pedestrian foot traffic in the roads was already an issue. We wanted to minimize the risk of going back-and-forth to their vehicles to feed a meter, but instead enjoy all of their time inside Chautauqua Park.
Through data analysis, community questionnaires and a stakeholder debrief, city staff determined that several goals were met through the 3-month test pilot. Due to 5 Cale CWT meter installations, the following ensued:
- Increase use of the free shuttle to and from Chautauqua: Not only did the meters help to balance the amount of traffic at the Chautauqua baseline, the free shuttle ridership was a success. On average, 900 Chautauqua guests per day used the offsite parking to take the free shuttle into the park on the weekend. In addition, 10% of Chautauqua employees used the shuttle to get to/leave work, even though they had their own employee parking zone.
- Reduction in traffic volume on Chautauqua’s Baseline Road/Increase in parking supply: On average, there was a 20% decrease in cars parked in the 5 Paid Parking zones, including Chautauqua’s Baseline Road, resulting in an increase in parking supply. Including all parking areas, there was an average of 768 daily parking transactions during the pilot and a total of 19,958 paid parking transactions made specifically over the 13 weekends from 8am to 5pm.
- Reduction of conflicts between automobiles and pedestrians in highly trafficked residential areas: Chautauqua staff and ‘cottagers’ (part home-owners, part renters) expressed great satisfaction with the pilot, finding it easier to park within proximity to their residences or rental lodging, but also appreciation for the reduction in cars circling for parking. When surveyed, several people specifically noted that it was quieter within the historic core than it had been in past summers and the increased sense of safety was prevalent.
- Reasonable Compliance with parking restrictions: Of the paid parking transactions, 64% used one of the five payment kiosks and 36% (7,216) used a mobile payment app. On some days, there were even more mobile payment transactions at Chautauqua than downtown.
Parking enforcement regularly enforced the pilot parking zones to ensure compliance within the specific areas. An average of 49 violations were cited each day of the 26-day pilot. Most violations were cited in the temporary ‘No Paid Parking’ zone, which was reserved for employees of the park, with significantly fewer violations occurring in the other five zones.
- Reduction of parking throughout adjacent neighborhoods: Throughout the ‘Paid Parking’ neighborhood zones around Chautauqua Park, fewer cars were parked in the study area in 2017 than in 2016, even during the weekdays when paid parking was not in place. On weekends, 48 fewer cars per hour were observed, and 35 fewer cars per hour were observed on weekdays during the pilot. When surveyed, residents within the neighborhoods reported positive results from the pilot, including less parking congestion, greater ability to access their own homes during the peak day time hours, and less trash and noise from parkers.
- Additional Success: Though the goal was not to make a profit from this pilot testing period, the total revenue made from the 5 CALE CWT Pay-by-Plate meters was $120,497. Of this, $80,000 was used to pay for the free shuttle, leaving $40,000 remaining in profit.
In addition, due to larger groups of pedestrians getting off of the shuttle to Chautauqua at once, there was an observed increase in driver compliance for yielding to pedestrians, from 74% in 2016 to 95% during the pilot in 2017. As stated by the City of Boulder Council Members, “Compliance generally improves with higher pedestrian volumes,” which resulted in unforeseen added safety measures.
By implementing 5 CALE CWT Pay-by-Plate meters, the City of Boulder, combined with the Chautauqua Access Management Plan, successfully addressed current and potential transportation and mobility issues at the National Historic Landmark, Chautauqua National Park. The creation of 5 ‘Paid Parking’ zones in the highest trafficked areas surrounding Chautauqua park encouraged visitors to use the free shuttle and park their vehicles offsite.
In addition to increased parking availability and less traffic congestion, heightened pedestrian safety was noticeable on all fronts. Less cars reportedly prompted drivers to drive with more ease and yield to pedestrians, while groups of shuttle riders getting off at once also increased drivers’ yielding. Residents in the surrounding area reported satisfaction with the pilot results, noting less parking congestion, greater ability to access their own homes during the peak day time hours, and less trash and noise from parkers.
In an unforeseen result, the program’s revenue was substantially more than projected. After paying for the free shuttle with paid parking revenue, an additional $40,497 was left for future projects.
As documented in the 2017 Pilot Debrief by the City of Boulder Council Chambers, the CAMP Pilot Program was an ultimate success and should be an ongoing funded program for a period of 5 years. After evaluating the data collection, stakeholder debriefs and community input, staff recommends that the majority of program components remain the same, extending the program to include holiday weekends such as Labor Day and Memorial Day.