ASHLAND DOWNTOWN PARKING MANAGEMENT & CIRCULATION AD HOC ADVISORY COMMITTEE
CALL TO ORDER
APRIL 6, 2016
The meeting was called to order at 3:30 p.m. in Council Chambers, 1175 East Main St.
Regular members present:
Chair Dave Young, Pam Hammond (arrived at 3:37), Marie Donovan, Michael Dawkins, John Williams (arrived at 3:38), Joe Graf, John Fields, and Joe Collonge
Regular members absent:
Lisa Beam, Emile Amarotico, Cynthia Rider, and Lynn Thompson
Ex officio (non-voting) members present:
Katharine Cato (left at 5:07), Michael Faught, Sandra Slattery, and Pam Marsh (arrived at 4:48)
Ex officio (non-voting) members absent:
Lee Tuneberg, Bill Molnar, Mike Gardiner, and Rich Rosenthal
City of Ashland Staff members present:
Tami De Mille-Campos
Chair Young shared this committee has been meeting for over two years. Most of those two years were spent working on a draft parking plan and for the last two months the committee has been working on the multi-modal piece of the plan. He referred to a newspaper article published over the weekend and shared nothing has been decided as of this point. This meeting is a continuation of the March meeting in which the multi-modal piece was discussed.
Faught explained this committee will not be voting on the plan during this meeting. There is still a public process piece to this that will occur before the committee is expected to vote on the plan.
APPROVAL OF MINUTES
Minutes of March 2, 2016
Minutes are approved as presented.
Julia Sommer, resides at 1158 Village Square Drive
She said after reading about this in the newspaper she was so excited to read that a bike lane through downtown may be a reality. She expressed her support of the proposed bike lane and shared that on her way to the meeting she was walking along the sidewalk on Main Street and she had to get out of the way of three young boys who were riding their bikes on the sidewalk because there is no bike lane for them.
She also shared that she has lived here for twelve years and has never had a problem parking downtown perhaps because she doesn’t expect to find a parking spot directly in front of her destination. She doesn’t understand the idea there is a problem with parking downtown. Although the safety of drivers, bicyclists, pedestrians, and delivery trucks does. She thinks it is great that the plan is going to incorporate a plan for the delivery trucks to not block traffic because that poses safety concerns.
Judi Honore, owns Shakespeare Books and Antiques located at 163 East Main Street
Judi read a series of questions to the committee (see handout). She also noted she had interviewed about 20 people before coming to the meeting. The responses she got regarding how people would feel if there was only 1 lane of traffic were: “frustrating, horrible, painful, terrible, bad idea, as bad as the homeless situation, come here to get out of traffic, and parking problems”.
Robert Bestor, resides at 2689 Takelma Way and owns Travel Essentials located at 252 East Main Street
He rides a bike about 7 months out of the year from the south end of town to the shop. He is a bike advocate and an advocate of having bike lanes through downtown as well. He is also an advocate of traffic calming along Main Street. However, his fear is that losing 21 parking spaces will have a negative effect on his business and other downtown businesses. He hopes the committee can figure out a way to save those parking spaces.
Karen Chapman, resides at 112 Almond Street and owns Bloomsbury books located at 290 East Main Street
She informed the committee that she was told businesses in the downtown were notified about this when it was first discussed and the businesses seemed to like the idea. She spent the day interviewing everyone she could on Main Street and everyone said it was a terrible idea! She added that we need to deal with a parking crisis not eliminate 21 parking spaces. If 21 parking spaces were lost it would be devastating to business and some may not be able to keep their doors open much longer if that were to happen. She said this is a town made up of elderly people and in a perfect world everyone would love to bicycle and be healthy enough to do that up and down our streets and through town but that likely isn’t going to happen. Ashland isn’t made up that way. She also has questions about where the money is going to come from, what about congestion, and what about the impact it will have on the businesses while the construction is taking place. She feels this is a premature conversation and she doesn’t think you can talk about this until the parking crisis is solved.
George Kramer, resides at 386 N Laurel
In reading through the draft plan he noticed the parking bays for truck loading is laid out to extend to 4:00 pm. He thinks this should be reconsidered because he feels they are going to be attractive places to illegally park and unless the City is thinking about ticketing, he thinks the trucks are going to use those but they are going to sit vacant most of the time in an exacerbated parking situation. It is going to cause issues for police, business owners and for the shoppers too. He also added that it seems like the City continues to tinker endlessly with the community. Sometimes that works out well and sometimes it has unintended consequences. He added most know that he is not a huge fan of the “road diet”. He thinks it is a nice idea in the middle of nothing. He understands this is an attempt to extend the concept of a “road diet” through downtown but as “Jane Jacobs would tell you, these are incredibly complicated places and messing with any one part of it has all sorts of unintended consequences”. He encourages the committee to consider the possibility of just leaving it alone.
Julie Teitelbaum, resides at 237 Almond Street
She has lived here since 1977. She owns the retail store called 250 Main, as well as property on part of that block, which includes the Columbia Hotel, as well as 7 retail spaces downtown. She has been told by everyone that this has been going on for 3 years and she didn’t know anything about it until yesterday when she saw the newspaper article. She came here in 1977 when the downtown was primarily boarded up and there was no real downtown, with no successful businesses. Downtown Ashland has now become a viable part of the tourist industry, which keeps the town alive. She thinks taking any parking spaces away from the businesses would sabotage this town. The demographics for this town and OSF patrons are predominantly older and many of them are not bicyclists. Although she is a proponent of being a bike rider and at 75 she rides a bike, she knows that as a business person when someone comes to her store and they say they wanted to come yesterday but they couldn’t find a parking place, for many people that means they are going to turn to online retailers who offer quick shipping. If we make it impossible or difficult for them to park, we are going to lose a lot of the downtown and it is going to be boarded back up again. OSF keeps the downtown stores/restaurants going and the downtown stores/restaurants keep OSF going. She feels it is ill-advised to change the downtown and she thinks it would be a tragedy for this town. Submitted written comment for the record.
Paul Neiermeyer, resides at 1497 Windsor Street
He is a native Oregonian and moved to Ashland in 2001. He feels trying to remove 21 parking spaces is going to create more problems than it is going to solve. He had read in the newspaper about the parking fine increase and he isn’t sure if that is in response to try to increase turnover but he questions why the increase. He stated he hasn’t had problems parking downtown but then again he doesn’t always park directly in front of where he needs to go.
Alice McGee, owns a kids clothing store at 264 East Main Street
She has owned the store for about 25 years. She said there wasn’t too much for her to add except she lives in Jacksonville and she drives through Phoenix every morning to get to work. Since the “road diet” was put in Phoenix it is very slow moving and sometimes there are even automobiles driving in the bike lane and she has yet to see one single bicycle during the morning or night. She has noticed that nobody tends to ride on the right side of the street because they don’t know they can cross the bicycle lane to do so. She wonders if 3 lanes can’t handle the traffic how can 2 lanes? She also wonders how long the construction would take and how many of those businesses won’t be able to survive.
Jenna Stanke Marmon, Jackson County Parks department, Bicycle/Pedestrian Program Manager
Jenna submitted a letter to the committee members. As she mentioned in the letter, this isn’t an official position by Jackson County, she just wanted to offer dome resources and food for thought as the decision is made. She is the current chair of the Oregon Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee and she has been watching communities throughout the state work towards improving their pedestrian atmosphere (nontraditional players like Tigard, Redmond, Klamath Falls). Nationally there are communities like Oklahoma City who is decoupling their couplets and really working on their pedestrian environment. Indianapolis built the cultural trail which is a 50 million dollar project which has reinvigorated their downtown. She encouraged the committee as they are deliberating on these controversial aspects of the plan to think about what we want to leave the future generation. Do we want to leave them great places to drive or do we want to leave them great places to be? She thinks Jane Jacobs would say the later, that we want to have great places to be. She offered up any resources she can to help the committee make these decisions.
Leigh Nanmann, resides at 320 ½ Bridge Street
He shared he graduated from SOU with a degree in environmental science. He is a member of the Jackson County Bike Committee. He was also involved in a collision resulting from traffic congestion. He rides through town frequently and has had to deal with the dangers of maneuvering around vehicles that are parked and unloading. This is a real safety hazard for bicyclists and drivers as well. He is here to encourage the committee to move forward with this proposal because from what he has studied by promoting bicycle friendly places and encouraging mobility through town it helps to create a greater foundation for the citizenry of Ashland as a whole. He also pointed out personally he gets a little grumpy when he gets stuck in traffic but he doesn’t see the parking crisis stopping no matter what we do. Ashland is a growing community and is going to continue to grow. What we really need to do is encourage pedestrians and bicyclists and creating an atmosphere where people can get around easily. He also encourages the committee to look at moving pedestrian traffic across the streets in a quicker fashion and think about other things that can be done such as maybe a trolley or a tram system that will help create a community atmosphere.
Faught encouraged everyone who came, to stick around and listen to the entire meeting. He pointed out that one of the most important things that he would like to share that he has heard from this committee through the entire process is they would not be on board with a plan that would eliminate 21 (it is actually 18) parking spaces. The plan would have to include a way to come up with a way to replace those parking spots before this committee would move forward. He wanted the people in the audience to know that the committee has seen that as an issue all along and we have some ideas on how to do that. He offered to come to smaller business groups to talk in more detail about the entire plan which includes the 3 lane to 2 lane but it also includes the parking side of things and how we can improve parking long-term.
Dawkins shared that he had spent the last few months studying the downtown ’62 plan (included in meeting packet). He found it interesting in that the issues that they were dealing with then mirror the issues of today. The 1967 newspaper article explains the outcry regarding everything that was ramrodded through. He shared that many influential people, including his father worked on that plan, and there are many elements of that plan that he thinks are amazing. All of that aside, the reason he sent these documents in is because most of that plan never happened because people were afraid about the same comments that were made today. For 2 1/2 years this committee, made up of diverse opinions, has been trying to find some sort of consensus.
Slattery shared she feels the newspaper article was very poorly done and when she read it she was very concerned because she didn’t think there was factual comments that were in there. She doesn’t know why that happened or why the article appeared the way it did because it made it sound as if this plan had been approved by this committee. And those committee members that have sat in on these meetings and had some really important points brought out, this article doesn’t mention. She shared that the committee has talked about many of the points that were brought up during public forum (cost, public input process, disruption to businesses etc.). She is very disappointed in the article and she feels it was a huge injustice to the real important considerations and conversations this committee has had and the article gave an unrealistic impression to the downtown businesses. She added there has been some pretty spirited conversations in the past 2 1/2 years with making sure the voices of the downtown businesses are heard.
Chair Young felt moved to respond because his name was in the newspaper article. He sees that the article points out that it is a proposal, he isn’t sure where it gives the impression that it is a done deal. He was asked by the reporter “what if things don’t work”, to which he referred to the road diet and that there were things that got tweaked. When it references him as saying “it would be implemented on a temporary basis” he said he didn’t say that and it is not in quotes. The lesson he took away is you can never be too careful with the media, they try to stir up passion and controversy. He read the article many times and he never saw the article present it as a done deal and he did not do that. He got called by KOBI to do an article today and he turned it to Faught.
Faught said as we move forward in the public process many of the committee members might be approached by the media to get opinions and he thinks staff should be the ones working with the media. In terms of messaging it, it may be much easier for staff to do that. He would like to make that recommendation to this committee. He spoke to the City Attorney today about it and the committee’s assignment from the Mayor was to work through this process, not to do the media side of it, although there is no hard rule that says that you can’t. There may be subject maters that come up where he does want someone else to provide input but he would like the committee to run these through him to make sure we get the right message out to the public.
Slattery said she wished that Faught had been involved in the article.
Donovan feels the other damage that was done by this article is that this committee has been working for 2 1/2 years on trying to solve the parking problem in the downtown and this is now dovetailing into the this committee for it to be a full package. There are so many questions about costs and where that money will come from, how to not just find those 18 parking spaces but how to find additional parking etc. She wants to be sure nobody loses track of those important questions.
REVIEW FINAL DRAFT
Kim Parducci, Southern Oregon Transportation Engineering
Parducci said she is back this month to talk some more about some of the multi-modal projects that the committee has been discussing. After listening to the public testimony, she wanted to say that she feels it is wonderful to have people voice their concerns because there hasn’t been a lot of that up to this point and it’s good to hear and to know what those concerns are. A lot of the concerns are the same concerns that the committee has had and has kept in mind when trying to develop this plan and she feels good about that. The big picture is these projects that are being proposed create the multi-modal aspect of this plan and that may have come in at the last moment but it’s a very important part of the plan. She mentioned as Rick Williams pointed out previously, we are at that point now where it is hard to find parking and its likely going to get worse. So you have a couple of simple options; create more parking with parking garages, shared parking, or you can beef up the multi-modal aspects and that is exactly what this part of the plan does. It creates the connections that do not currently exist for pedestrians, cyclists, and bus riders. By doing that, you open up spaces in the downtown for the customers who drive their cars. This part of the plan balances that; you make the spaces that you do have in inventory stretch further and she feels that is a really important part that is sometimes forgotten when looking at the details of the plan. This plan is really simple in that the multi-modal aspect was taken from the TSP pieces that relate to the downtown area and the bicycle projects, sidewalk projects, transit routes, and the pedestrian projects are in a big effort to connect people to the downtown. People who are capable of using these modes of transportation may choose another mode besides driving and that is the importance of this multi-modal aspect. So the TSP projects are a part of the proposal, as well as additional projects that have come from feedback received since this committee formed. She stressed the 3 lane to 2 lane conversion is not an effort to stretch the road diet into the downtown area. They are trying to find a way to connect all of the users to the downtown and preserve the parking.
Parducci stepped through the 3 lane to 2 lane presentation from the March meeting. She said by creating the narrow section as you come into the downtown, you are channelizing the traffic and flow. The proposal includes removing the signal at Helman and necking it down to 1 lane so that way you are already transitioned and you don’t have the back and forth fighting for transitioning. The proposal is also to neck it down into 1 lane in the southbound direction coming into the plaza so that it makes it easier on traffic at Helman to make that left turn movement into the downtown (without the signal). It also makes it easier when you are coming around the loop road by Church Street because now the majority of traffic is going to be in 1 lane and they can pull into the inside lane without having to fight that traffic. It should allow the traffic to flow much better and the pedestrians who aren’t having to cross a signal, would only have to cross 12 feet to get into the island and then cross another 12 feet to get across to the sidewalk on the other side. She said she knows everyone is worried about congestion but when you have signalized intersections you increase congestion. With the signal the congestion typically backs up to Bush Street but by removing the signal you allow the cars to free flow.
There was discussion regarding the center refuge that would be created near Bards Inn. Slattery mentioned this would allow someone who was coming from the north to safely turn left into the Bards Inn parking lot which she recently had mentioned to Faught.
Parducci described how the plan would split the traffic northbound on Lithia, the left lane would be dedicated for the loop road and the right lane would be dedicated for through traffic onto Main Street. Dawkins shared trucks park and unload right in front of Bards in near Helman. He thinks someone should discuss this with Bards Inn.
Parducci went on to explain there has been concerns regarding the safety on Water Street. She said by closing the beaver slide to vehicular traffic a good portion of traffic is eliminated on Water Street which is then having to make that turn at the Plaza. She explained in the section between the loop road and Water Street there are 3 parking spaces being eliminated in front of Patricia Sprague and Brothers Restaurant. In the section between Water Street and Oak Street there are no parking spaces being eliminated but they are incorporating a bus stop, a bike lane that connects all the way into the Plaza which currently doesn’t exist, and bulb outs so that pedestrians don’t have to cross as far of a distance at the intersections and disrupt traffic for as long. Oak/Main is a failing intersection, by having it signalized it creates better coordination for the vehicle all the way through town and it protects the movement for the pedestrians to cross when it is their turn. On the other side of Oak Street, at Lithia, there is also a signal being recommended, which was a TSP project. Collonge asked about putting a signal at First Street. Faught
said in a recent discussion with ODOT, they were actually recommending that as well (to assist with pedestrians crossing) and it is something they will continue to look at that.
Parducci explained that by creating the loading zones it actually provides 2 lanes for through traffic which currently there are times when you have a truck loading on both sides creating only 1 lane to through traffic. The perception might be that we are trying to reduce the lanes but the plan really calls for better utilization of the 2 lanes than what we are currently doing with the 3 lanes. Faught said he has spoken to Diamond Parking and the Ashland Police regarding enforcement of the loading zones because that is a critical piece. Several people were curious to know what the fine would be for impeding traffic. Faught said he would check with Officer MacLennan on that.
Parducci said there were some operational questions at the last meeting so she went back and ran the model and the model showed that southbound on Main Street from Helman to 3rd Street, at 16 mph (which is the average speed in the model) in the existing year it takes 82.5 seconds. Going down to 2 lanes it takes 89 seconds, so under a 7 second increase in the model. She pointed out that the model doesn’t factor in trucks being parked in the road so the model is assuming there isn’t that problem. In the opposite direction (northbound) it was 78 seconds in the current year and 88.5 seconds in the future year.
Chair Young asked how Parducci feels about the validity of the modeling and is it accurate. Parducci said she feels it is valid and accurate. You calibrate the modeling, set them up using input factors, watch the modeling run and then you go out into the field and you watch how it is operating in the real world. Then you make further adjustments to the modeling if necessary. She said if you can get your base model to look like your real world situation then when you make changes to that base model it should reflect what is going to happen when those changes are implemented. The hard part is getting your base model to look how it really is.
Donovan said one thing the modeling can’t do is predict how this will impact the businesses during the period of time in which construction is taking place and what congestion is going to look like during that time. That unknown is the most daunting for her. She said change is inevitable and its a great thing but she has seen communities that have done major projects based on the assumption that it is going to change behavior in people and that doesn’t always work. Faught said he has Jaime Jordan from OBEC working on the cost and construction aspect of this plan. She is in attendance to listen to the feedback and look at the proposals. From a construction perspective the plan is to proceed with minimal impact to the downtown area (night construction, begin with sidewalks first, one lane at a time etc).
Hammond asked about the parking spot that is near the Wells Fargo driveway. She said it appears in the map that it is no longer there and she wanted to know if that loss was accounted for in the 18 parking spaces. Faught said he would look into that because it is hard to tell from the presentation.
Graf said in the design there has been a lot of talk about streetscape and expanding the sidewalks and he was wondering it that is incorporated into these diagrams? Parducci wasn’t sure but Faught said Jaime has looked at that and he could have her bring her drawings to a future meeting. He also asked about the X’s that are in between every two parking spaces, he was wondering if eliminating those would gain additional parking spaces. Faught said he had that conversation early on with the University of Oregon group and he will go back and pull that information but he doesn’t recall it netting any increase. Graf asked how much of this is the current committee being asked to approve and how much of it is being left for the future committee. Faught said it is a little bit different than the parking strategies and what he heard at the last meeting was there are some clear things this current committee needs to see on this 3 lane to 2 lane proposal before they are going to let this go. Dawkins feels the pricing and time stays which have yet to be decided also play a factor. Graf is confused as to what the group is supposed to worry about and what is going to be passed off to the next committee. Dawkins said he agrees but there has to be something tangible that goes to City Council without drilling down into every detail. Faught said he would like to get to a point where everyone is comfortable with the plan. He informed the committee that he has hired an architect to come up with some conceptual drawings to show what the downtown might look like with these multi-modal projects.
Fields said when these projects are undertaken we need to make sure we take into consideration improvements to utilities and take a good look at what utilities are currently existing.
Parducci said she would like to know from the committee what they would like to see in order to be comfortable with proceeding with this. Hammond said costs are still a big question for her and how are those costs going to be paid for. Faught said the cost is around 6 million dollars. Hammond and Slattery asked if that includes upgrading to the new light standards and adding flowers etc. Dawkins said that is a part of the scope of the downtown beatification committee. Jaime Jordan said that figure of 6 million included upgrading the aged utilities, putting in new trees up to the new tree standards, putting in 2 new signals etc.
Slattery mentioned needing to discuss the disruption that this will cause for the downtown and what does that really mean to the businesses. She also asked if the signal is added at First Street how will that “increased congestion” address the climate action plan. Chair Young feels that by making the multi-modal connectivity happen you are going to do a lot for the climate action plan by encouraging and making it safer for people to travel as pedestrians and bicyclists. He also added that future trends are showing that younger people are driving less and want to be more active. Donovan said she has an issue with the assumption that if you build it people are going to use it. She doesn’t think you are going to see that many people changing their behavior. Slattery thought maybe her question was misunderstood. She said several years ago there was a pedestrian death at the intersection of Main and First Street so she isn’t opposed to having a signal at that intersection. She was curious because she knows we are committed to a climate action plan. She wonders if it is actually a better solution to have that intersection signalized since every block prior to that is going to have one. Parducci said ODOT thinks so and we are going to model it. Dawkins said an example is on Central Avenue in Medford near Rogue Community College (RCC). The traffic seems to move through there and they certainly have a huge amount of pedestrian traffic with the library and RCC.
Dawkins said one other thing that Fields made him think about is how tight the bridge over Water Street is. Whenever he has ridden his bike there, it is very tight. He isn’t sure that is going to feel comfortable for the average bike rider. Faught said they looked at standard widths all the way through but they will take a look again. He also pointed out that during a recent conversation with Rick Williams he pointed out that all of our bike racks in town are full even without having many bicycle facilities and for him that is a strong indication the desire is there.
Graf pointed out he thinks the plan itself needs to change. It looks like the multi-modal portion of the plan is an add on and was thrown in at the last minute. There is nothing that talks about the vision for redesigning Main Street except the maps. It also doesn’t include the requirements to this committee being able to support the plan (making the 18 spaces whole, not disrupting the businesses etc.). The charge to the Parking Advisory Committee and the charge to the Parking Manager have nothing to do with the construction of multi-modal projects so it is unclear where all of this goes. Faught said this is a draft plan and they tried to pull what they could together in time for this meeting. Also, he made it very clear to the Council at this week’s study session that the multi-modal piece will go through the Transportation Commission. Graf thinks it should all be spelled out within the plan before they are asked to support it.
Slattery said she appreciated Graf’s comments. She feels like the plan needs an overarching statement for their efforts of what they are doing and what the intention is. She had people in her office for 2 hours yesterday and she feels it is critical to have a statement of what the mission is and that we want public input. She encouraged others to send their suggestions to Faught and he said he would appreciate the feedback. He added we will continue to tweak the document and make it flow better. He doesn’t think we can get it done in time to get it out to the public before summertime so rather than try to do it during the summer when people are gone, at this stage maybe the committee might go a few months without meeting.
Faught said the City Administrator wanted him to point out the section that talks about the Downtown Parking Coordinator position needs to include “the structure of the parking management program is subject to the City Administrator’s discretion”. He needs to decide where that plan goes. He is saying he is ok with the Parking Coordinator position but if this plan is approved he will decide where that position goes.
Chair Young wanted to share he has caught an undercurrent that people feel he pushed the narrative that ended up in the newspaper and if that is true he wants to dispel that. He said he got called by the reporter and assumed Faught had told them to talk to him as the Chair. Donovan said the reporter had called her too but she didn’t return her phone call. She had also received a phone call from another reporter and she said she wasn’t qualified to answer those questions and she gave him the name of Faught. Young said he was very careful about how he framed his statements. Faught said it sounds like we have that figured out for the future.
The next meeting will be held on May 4, 2016 at 3:30 p.m.
Meeting adjourned at 5:30 pm
Tami De Mille-Campos, Administrative Supervisor