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June 2, 2010 — Respondents to Vail’s community survey have identified parking as the highest priority to be addressed by the Town Council and staff.
In addition, nearly twice as many people who were surveyed said the town is going in the “right direction” than those who said the town has “gotten off on the wrong track.”
These and other findings of the 2010 community survey were presented to the Vail Town Council Tuesday by the research firm RRC Associates, which conducted the questionnaire at the close of the 2009-10 ski season.
In addition to being identified as the highest priority, parking also generated more open-ended comments than any other issue, according to RRC researcher Chris Cares.
“It is clear that this topic is ‘top of mind’ this year, with both criticism and constructive suggestions provided by a large number of respondents to the survey,” he said.
Parking was a particularly dominant comment on a question that asked, “What one or two things can the Town of Vail do to improve the guest experience?”
The cost and availability of parking, as well as related ideas concerning signage, drop-offs and bus service were frequently mentioned, according to Cares.
Respondents were asked to prioritize a list of 11 community issues by identifying their one or two “top priorities.” After parking other topics identified as top priorities by 80 percent or more of the respondents included “Economic Vitality,” “Budget and Capital Management,” and “”Guest Relations and Customer Service.”
A related question asked respondents to rate these same 11 topics based on a scale of 1 to 5 with 1 “not a priority” and 5 a “high priority.”
The topic of “workforce housing” which had been identified as the top issue when the survey was last fielded in 2007, was listed as a high priority by 55 percent of the respondents this year. Results for 2010 are as follows:
• Parking, 4.46
• Economic Vitality, 4.41
• Budget & Capital Management, 4.36
• Guest Relations and Customer Service, 4.27
• Transportation Needs, 4.11
• Master Planning, 4.1
• Well-rounded Community, 3.99
• Workforce Housing, 3.61
• Environmental Sustainability, 3.51
• Use of Conference Center Funds, 3.41
• Planning for West Vail Commercial Redevelopment, 3.09
General State of Vail
Respondents were generally favorable about the general state of the town with 58 percent indicating the town is “going in the right direction,” compared to 28 percent who said the town has “pretty seriously gotten off on the wrong track.” The results are nearly identical to scores from the 2007 survey.
When asked to explain their responses, several themes emerged: Among those that expressed the town is headed in the “right direction,” multiple respondents identified the following:
• Supportive of the upgrades that have occurred in the Village and LionsHead and generally in favor of changes that address the town’s economic challenges. They mentioned the facelifts and new buildings, renewal of dated structures and “success in spite of the recession.”
• In related comments, some feel the town has been more pro-development and pro-economy, which has helped to weather economic conditions. They feel that the town has encouraged and allowed development and that it is turning out well.
• There are compliments for strong leadership at the town level including both the staff and town council. In particular, respondents cite the financial forecasting by the town, efficient operations and “living with the budget.”
Comments differ among those that said the town is on the “wrong track:”
• They frequently cited parking as an issue, saying there is not enough parking and that this shortage negatively impacts the experience of guests and locals alike. Further, the cost of parking was often cited.
• The size, scale and character of the new buildings were criticized. In contrast to those that feel the town is on the right track because of new buildings and progress, others said the town is headed in the wrong direction and identify the results of redevelopment as the problem.
• There were some concerns expressed about a strained relationship between the town leadership and Vail Resorts. Some faulted the town, some faulted Vail Resorts and several asked that these relationships be improved.
Opinions about town services were also probed in response to the town’s $2.9 million budget cuts associated with the economic downturn and the goal to provide no noticeable impact on services. A large majority, 76 percent, identified “no change” in service levels versus prior years, while 18 percent identified a “slight decline.” Three percent identified a “slight improvement,” and 1 percent identified a “large improvement.”
In a related question, the relationship between taxes and town services found a majority of respondents, 56 percent, indicating satisfaction with the current level of taxes and services provided by the town, while 18 percent said they pay too much for the services. Six percent said they would be willing to pay more taxes to get more services, while 10 percent said they would be willing to accept service reductions if it means lower taxes.
When asked to review a list of possible sources for increased revenues by the town, a tax on liquor and cigarettes received the highest support, 43 percent from respondents, from a list of 11 choices, with increases to parking fees receiving the lowest support.
Other findings from the survey include:
• Support by 82 percent to take time to study and evaluate the choices to determine a ballot issue for use of $9.3 million collected for a town-owned conference center that was never built, or to move at an even slower pace, with most, 53 percent, saying the money should be used to “build something.”
• Lack of support to charge a parking fee during the summer with 72 percent opposing such a fee.
• General satisfaction, about 55 percent, with the amount of emphasis placed on environmental issues related to the overall attention to forest health, enforcement of the dead tree removal ordinance and addressing environmental quality in the town. More people said there’s “too little emphasis,” 30-35 percent, than “too much,” 10-15 percent.
• Most, 54 percent, indicated Vail’s “sense of community” stayed the same over the past two years with only 9 percent indicating improvement and 26 percent said it had gotten worse.
In rating their satisfaction with a variety of municipal services with 5 being “very satisfied,” the highest scores were given to the following categories:
• Courtesy and helpfulness of firefighters and fire prevention staff, 4.5
• Cleanliness of the pedestrian villages, 4.4
• Response times to basic medical emergencies, 4.4
• Friendliness/courtesy of library staff, 4.4
• Overall park maintenance, 4.3
• Snow removal on roads, 4.3
• Overall feeling of safety and security, 4.3
• Library story hour, 4.3
• Dependability of bus service, 4.3
• Frequency of town shuttle, 4.2
• Library materials/databases/summer reading program, 4.2
• Friendliness and courteous of Public Works employees, 4.1
• Bus driver courtesy, 4.1
• Cleanliness of buses, 4.1
• Library website, 4.1
• Road and street maintenance, 4.0
• Cleanliness of public restrooms, 4.0
• Fire safety, awareness and education programs provided, 4.0
• Library newsletter, 4.0
The lowest satisfaction ratings were given to “overall parking fees” and “parking availability during the winter” with scores of 2.5 each. Bus crowding was also identified as a relative concern and specific routes were cited for complaint.
The survey was conducted during a three-week period in March and April and includes responses from 528 individuals. This year the survey was conducted primarily by Internet, in contrast to a telephone survey conducted in 2007 and 2005.
Extensive written comments were received this year on the questionnaire that provided a number of opportunities to make comments and suggestions and the detailed written input was tabulated verbatim. As in the past, responses from year-round residents and seasonal residents were probed separately.
The survey results have been posted in their entirety on the town’s website at www.vailgov.com.
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