Misconceptions on downtown parking

By From page A6 | April 10, 2014

Having served on the Downtown Davis Parking Task Force, I would like to clear up some misconceptions:

* The task force is out of touch with public opinion. False. As citizens, we too work, shop, eat and live in the downtown area. We represent a wide variety of perspectives. We did extensive research, read survey results, consulted experts and heard from the general public.

* The task force proposal was to charge for parking. Misleading. With 17 other “management” recommendations, we unanimously agreed to recommend charging a small fee and building a structure. This resulted from significant research and considering all viewpoints equally. Notice the only council member who witnessed our whole process supports adopting our entire recommendation package outright.

* There will be nowhere to park downtown without paying. False. Although a two-block radius will have paid on-street parking, the rest of the on-street parking will be free. Furthermore, garages will remain free, as will off-street parking (e.g., Amtrak lot after 5 p.m.).

* Everyone will simply avoid the paid parking spots. False, by design. All paid parking will have a newly extended four-hour limit so that anyone needing to stay longer (for work, shopping, school, movie or whatever) has an incentive to park in the paid spots, thus opening up more free parking.

* Paid parking will deter shoppers. Not with validation. Having businesses validate parking for price-sensitive shoppers allows businesses to carry that burden without the hassle of restructuring in-lieu fees.

* To solve our parking problem we need a new structure. Suspect. This approach doesn’t align with human behavior because drivers underutilize structures. Additionally, structures are a major expense ($20,000 to $30,000 per parking space), with zero direct financial return to the city. Meters pay for themselves in less than five years. Anyone who appreciates a balanced budget and low taxes has to respect this argument.

Downtown Davis has a parking problem. We cannot avoid implementing the proposed solutions. We elect our officials to improve our community despite naysayers and special interests. Let’s change the discussion from whether to implement the solutions and start discussing how.

Amanda Kimball

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