The Downtown Partnership of Colorado Springs and the city are floating the idea of extending downtown parking meter fee hours to include weekday and weekend nights to raise money to save the free downtown shuttle.
While no plan is certain yet, the idea was born of the downtown partnership’s desire to continue service of the Downtown Area Shuttle or DASH, better known as the free downtown shuttle, which runs regular routes on Tejon Street between Colorado College and the Park and Ride at Interstate 25 and Tejon.
Funding for the DASH service is running out, and downtown partnership officials asked city parking administrator Greg Warnke to help find a financial solution to save the shuttle.
Warnke said raising meter fees wasn’t an option, because they had been recently raised in 2006. The only solution he could think of was to start charging evening visitors to downtown for parking.
The idea is to begin metered parking one hour earlier, at 8 a.m., and extend it through 10 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Meter fees after 6 p.m. would be reduced from $1 an hour to 50 cents an hour. Sundays would remain free.
The plan would ideally generate enough money to continue the DASH service at 50 percent its current schedule.
Warnke this week embarked on a campaign, talking to the Downtown Development Authority and the Downtown Marketing Committee, to test sentiment for the idea.
“It’s been mixed,” he said. “Some of the retailers whose customers have been paying for parking all along think it’s time for the nighttime crowd to pay its fair share.”
But, Warnke knows restaurant and bar owners might not be receptive to that idea.
He plans to talk to that group this week or next.
If the downtown consensus is supportive of the idea, Warnke will take the idea before City Council on April 13.
Saving the DASH is important to many downtown proponents because it could affect Colorado Springs eligibility for federal money to help pay for a streetcar rail service that would run between downtown and the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs.
“I really don’t have a dog in that fight,” Warnke said. “But it’s a service the downtown partnership has been working for a long, long time and they feel it’s a value to downtown and they don’t want to lose it.”