Despite increasing population, Fort Collins residential parking permits not expected to expand

Audrey Weiss

Video by Ira Weiss

The Fort Collins population is expected to grow by 107 percent by 2050, but with dramatic growth comes implications.

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Cars parked along the street
Cars are parked along Meldrum St. just north of campus in a neighborhood that uses the Residential Parking Permit Program. The program is designed to make Fort Collins neighborhoods safe and keep the streets less congested. It increases the amount of street parking available to residents and guests while still allowing space for other people who may need to park along the street. (Joe Oakman | Collegian).

Specifically, parking has been impacted, not only by the growing residential population, but Colorado State University’s staff and student populations, according to Seth Lorson, the City transit planner.

“People are spilling over into the neighborhoods, parking in front of people’s homes,” Lorson said. “The problem was getting so bad that people were saying they can’t find a place even on their block, let alone in front of their home.”

Lorson said transit planners want to encourage people to embrace the predictability of future transportation and take advantage of alternatives.

“Until we see other areas in town generating huge parking demand on the level that downtown and CSU does, we won’t need to expand the program beyond the areas we’ve already identified,” Lorson said.

According to Lorson, activity centers, such as Downtown Fort Collins or the CSU campus, pull in a population seeking free parking rather than alternative parking provided by these activity centers, either due to fees or a lack of available parking.

Fort Collins City Councilman Ross Cunniff said council members adopted the residential parking permit program, or RP3, to alleviate various transportation problems, since it intends to prevent spillover from activity centers by putting in place time-restricted parking in residential neighborhoods surrounding specific locations.

“The problem was getting so bad that people were saying they can’t find a place even on their block, let alone in front of their home.” Seth Lorson, transit planner

According to Lorson, transit planners had many discussions with City Council to establish predictability of spillover generators and plan accordingly. These areas are filling in relatively quickly, according to Lorson.

“(City Council) is very invested in the RP3 program,” Lorson said. “We have this economic vitality in Fort Collins and with that, one of their interests is that … we’re not overly impacting and imposing on existing neighborhood fabric, and the residential parking program is really key to that.”

An RP3 program is initiated, first, when a neighborhood forms a petition, according to Lorson. From there, transit planners conduct an occupancy study in order to determine the boundaries.

A majority vote results in implementation of the zone, and requires at least 50 percent neighborhood participation, according to Lorson.

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“When we take one segment of a neighborhood surrounding CSU and we restrict it, no longer are staff and students able to park in that area,” Lorson said. “(So) what it does is it kind of pushes that spillover traffic into the area that’s non-restricted.”

By pushing the problem into other areas, the neighborhood then affected is more inclined to seek out RP3 zoning.

“At a certain point, there will be a complete ring around CSU where there is residential parking permit programs and there won’t be any free parking to get your kind of work around free park and then go into CSU,” Lorson said.

According to Lorson, this is by design to promote alternative transportation, such as public transit, biking and carpooling. This, in turn, leads to less pollution and less congestion, which accommodates population growth.

Lorson said that residents are concerned with CSU’s role in an overall lack in parking or affordable parking and express frustration with fees associated with permits. However, permits themselves fall in a generally affordable range.

“It does cost money to have a permit,” Lorson said. “(But) they are very inexpensive—the first one is free, the second is $15 a year, the third one is $40 a year, and it’s an escalating fee structure after that.”

Collegian reporter Audrey Weiss can be reached at news@collegian.com or on Twitter @Audkward.