‘Appreciate the feedback’: Northstar responds to guest concerns on parking charges, maintains decision will ease congestion
The following comments were posted at SierraSun.com or the Sierra Sun’s Facebook page:
On “Northstar to charge for parking at Village View this season”:
Carla Beebe — The timing of this announcement is interesting. One of their pass purchasing options is to pay a down payment in the early spring to take advantage of the lowest pass price. The balance due, depending on your pass selection, was just recently processed via credit card. So, it seems they made sure to collect pass balances before making the announcement. We will be asking for a refund because this simply doesn’t work for us.
Mike Stoltzman — I’m in the same boat. I’d love to know the response you get.
Malte Humpert — I emailed them. Boiler plate reply saying to contact corporate at 800-842-8062. Have yet to get someone on the line. ... I’m keeping detailed records and will like to a charge back on my credit card. Significant change of service without notifying customers warrants a charge back.
Dawn Gaffney — We all know how well this idea went over at Squaw Valley. Good luck!
Michele Espinola — Public transportation? I wasn’t aware we have public transportation into the neighborhoods? I’ve only lived here 20+ years, so please, enlighten me. Specifically, what is the available public transportation into Prosser, Glenshire, Sierra Meadows, Tahoe Donner, Olympic Heights, Donner Lake, Armstrong Tract, Martis, Lahontan, Schaffers, Old Greenwood, Gray’s Crossing? I am only aware of public transportation through these neighborhoods during Truckee Thursdays.
Judy Zach — “This plan creates a better experience for wealthier guests by providing more consistent availability to parking, which offers better access to the Village at Northstar, and ultimately, skiing and riding.”
Susie Minton — I have an idea ... how about Northstar take some of these new parking fee earnings and run their own bus through Truckee to supplement our useless TART system that starts too late in the morning for employees and those who want to arrive when the lifts open, requires a lengthy bus change for all those who don’t live downtown or along Brockway/267, doesn’t run often enough to be relevant, completely unreliable in the snow, and always seems to be stuck in Kings Beach ... so employees and guests alike don’t have to drive to Northstar. I appreciate that paid parking is common among destination ski resorts, but those resorts have adequate public transportation that effectively connects the resorts to the neighboring communities.
Liz Rebello Rowen — After how much you charge for skiing? That is crazy!
Sky Matula — I wonder if this will make (Free) Castle Peak parking area fill faster and force later arrivals (often families) to go into the village lots and pay. Time will tell how this works out. Seems to be the way of the world.
Tray DeGuire — Biggest. Money grab. Ever. What happens when free parking is full at Castle Peak? You have to pay to park or do you get creative? Park your car in Truckee and take the bus? Oh wait, you’re still paying for parking.
Bruce Colmer — The last remaining Oasis is gone. As if it wasn’t hard enough to get to the lifts.
Martha Shores Knudsen — $40 to park your car on a weekend? Wow.
Hans Peter Wilms — Make more money is more like it, being a good manager is someone who comes up with a solution that saves money or doesn’t cost more?
Sean Powers — Is there somewhere that I can just exist in Truckee without having to pay?
Since announcing earlier this month it would begin to charge for parking at its Village View parking lot, in an effort to ease congestion, Northstar California has drawn criticism from many who ski and ride at the mountain.
Guests can still park for free at the resort’s Castle Peak lot. But the resort’s plan of charging $10 on weekdays and $20 on weekends to park at the Village View lot led to some sharp feedback.
One of the key complaints was the timing of the announcement, which was made public in October and, according to many, came shortly after riders and skiers had their bank accounts charged for the cost of 2019-20 season passes.
“In this situation, there was no communication about pass charge dates and the parking announcement whatsoever. They were two independent processes happening,” said Northstar Director of Base Operations Tony Karwowski. “The actual decision itself was a process that started some time ago … in that process we’ve tried many different things over the years to manage our ingress, egress, and parking areas at Northstar to really try to improve the guest experience.”
While determining the best way to handle parking at the resort has been an ongoing issue, Karwowski said Northstar was only recently able to announce the decision to begin charging at Village View.
“It’s a timing issue with that process,” he said. “There are a lot of different factors in that process that we have to finalize before we can actually go public with it.”
WILL IT WORK?
Another issue raised by many skiers and riders at the resort is whether the decision will actually improve congestion on Northstar Drive. The Sierra Sun received several phone calls, emails, and messages arguing that guests with passengers will make the trip up Northstar Drive, drop off passengers, and loop back around, potentially making traffic worse along that stretch of road.
The resort, however, maintains the decision to charge guests to park at Village View, along with improved shuttle frequency, will reduce congestion on Northstar Drive.
“The whole design of the system itself is to create less congestion on Northstar Drive,” said Karwowski. “The idea is that the time it takes to pull into Castle Peak, boot up, and hop on a bus, and then ride to the village is equal or less than the time it takes to drive up Northstar Drive, drive through the village, boot up, and walk down to the village to the lift.”
In order to ensure that happens, Karwowski said the resort has enhanced its transportation services from Castle Peak with additional shuttles and drivers.
Another issue facing the resort the past several years has been the congestion created on California State Route 267 during holidays and weekends.
“One of the benefits of this program, that we believe, is that it will actually allow us to take in traffic faster because we are going to be parking in simultaneous lots — both Village View and Castle Peak at the same time,” said Karwowski. “Whereas in the past, our traffic pattern has been Village View parks, and then we park Castle Peak, and that has generated some of the congestion and backup in and of itself. We feel activating both of these parking lots at the same time is going to actually allow us to take inflow faster and reduce backup on 267.”
For peak holidays and weekends Northstar said it’s working to bring back its Park & Ride program, which is a free bus service that will operate out of the Truckee Tahoe Airport.
PAY AT kIOSK OR ONLINE APP
In order to implement and enforce the parking changes at Village View, the resort has partnered with Interstate Parking, which will be responsible for taking payments, and enforcing parking via its license plate recognition technology.
“People are still going to see our employees in the parking lot directing parking spaces,” said Karwowski. “What they are also going to see is a pay-point system. We’re going to have some self-pay kiosks in the parking lot, and then we’ll also have the online app.”
For season pass holders upset enough to ask for their money to be refunded, Karwowski said, all pass sales are final.
“That is part of our season pass policy,” he added
Ultimately, the resort maintains the decision to charge for parking at Village View this season has been driven by the need to improve traffic flow on Northstar Drive.
“This is going to increase guest experience, and that’s really the aim of the program,” said Karwowski.
“Really what it comes back to is what we’ve built this program around — improving congestion on Northstar Drive and the guest experience. And that is evident in us putting in more resources into Castle Peak transportation for the year to make sure that is an expedient process … we appreciate the feedback we hear from our guests.”
Justin Scacco is a reporter for the Sierra Sun. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.