The Downtown Parking Task Force wrapped up its work Wednesday, rounding out a full list of recommendations to the City Council that will include, based on discussions from its final meeting, a suggestion to add on-street paid parking downtown.
The group was formed by the council late last year to develop solutions to parking congestion in the city’s Core Area.
While there seemed to be near-unanimous support on the task force Wednesday to recommend installing a paid parking system — a strategy the group believes would free up spaces often consumed by chronic downtown employee re-parkers — the group ultimately could not agree where to put the meters.
Task force members also couldn’t come to a consensus on how much the rate per hour should be or the maximum amount of time someone should be allowed to park in a metered spot.
But even without those details hammered out, task force member Robb Davis said the committee is sending a substantial recommendation up to the City Council.
“That’s a strong statement,” Davis said. “Now, the devil obviously is in the details and the exact configuration is where we’re divided, but there are eight of us saying we favor (paid parking).”
However, not all members of the task force were on board.
Jennifer Anderson, president of Davis Ace, has been an outspoken opponent of metering street parking ever since the group was formed. Again Wednesday, she voiced her concerns about how charging customers to park could affect business.
“I really don’t believe that this entire area requires paid parking as an initial (plan),” Anderson said. “I’m against any paid parking. I keep hearing it over and over and over again from people that they just won’t come downtown.”
In the end, however, the final report city transportation staff will put together for the council’s review will include wide support for metered parking. It will be up to the City Council to decide exactly where the meters should be installed.
Before Wednesday’s meeting, the task force already had voted to recommend that the city spend $150,000 to commission a study to determine the feasibility of building a parking structure on one of several surface lots downtown. The group had decided, aside from paid parking, that expanding the parking supply is the single most effective way to ease the demand.
The task force also earlier voted to push back the police parking enforcement schedule from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. to 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. to police and ticket those who don’t follow parking laws later in the evenings.
On Wednesday, the task force added to the list, voting to make changes to the way the city manages employee parking, perhaps the most substantial strategy the group recommended to city leaders after paid parking and a parking structure feasibility study.
In an effort to offer more all-day employee parking spaces for those who work downtown, while also freeing up more spaces in the heart of the Core Area, the group voted Wednesday to add 125 new employee parking spots just outside the most heavily trafficked parts of the downtown. The supply of X permits would increase from 275 to 400 if all the potential new locations were utilized.
The strategy of increasing the supply of employee parking — in this case, in Old North Davis and the Fourth and G streets parking garage, among other locations surrounding the “core of the Core Area” — and moving employees out of the heart of the downtown where customers ideally should have priority, could help free up spaces during peak times when it is most difficult to find spots.
Concerns have been raised by business owners in the past, however, of employees walking longer distances back to their cars after work at night. As proposed, the bulk of new employee parking would be on-street and would be pushed north of Third and Fourth Streets and west of D Street.
To address the business owners’ concerns, Davis suggested that the city look into a night shuttle bus program.
“If those parking districts, the downtown, Old North and Old East can’t at least consider contributing to (the employee parking supply), then I think we’re not going to be able to maximize it,” Davis said.
Brian Abbanat, the city’s transportation planner, will put together a final report for the council’s review over the next few weeks. Abbanat said after the meeting that an initial item likely would go to the council in the next few months so that the council can decide how it wants to tackle the recommendations.
— Reach Tom Sakash at firstname.lastname@example.org or 530-747-8057. Follow him on Twitter at @TomSakash