12.1.16 Downtown Parking Forum Questions and Answers as answered by Rick Williams of Rick Williams Consulting
Ann (downtown business owner)
Question: You said something earlier in the presentation that was startling and that was that you helped the City develop a plan back in 2000 which was never implemented. She asked if shew understood correctly that one of the reasons it wasn’t implemented was because the plan didn’t include having a Parking Manager.
Answer: Yes and this is not unusual. That is why he thinks the work of this committee is so important because often times they are hired by cities and they work directly with staff with no citizen input. There are other times that they work with citizen input and then there is a plan but there is no system in place to support the plan. This time we want to get it right. Parking management at a level of complexity that this plan telegraphs is going to require someone working full time on this.
Ken (downtown business owner)
Question: Has anyone ever explored a negative parking fee (employees would be rewarded/incentivized) to encourage employees downtown to park away from the downtown?
Answer: Yes. There are lots of different examples of that, not necessarily led by a City though. The best example of this is Seattle Children’s Hospital. They pay their employees $50/month if they do not drive and they are also given a free transit pass or if they commit to biking they will actually buy them a bike. Another example is where he previously worked, Go Lloyd, they worked with over 100 businesses who made a pact that they would not pay for their employees parking but they gave everyone a transit pass regardless of whether it got used or not.
He thinks it is a wonderful concept and it falls under the shared use strategy. Where we are trying to put a partnership together and that is why the Chamber is so involved. Working with the Chamber, downtown businesses and the committee they would like to look at what is called the “customer first” program. This is a partnership that sets ground rules and establishes an agreement between businesses on how they will manager their employees parking.
Question: Do you have a timeframe for identifying where new lots would go?
Answer: It would be within that 18-36 month window. One of the recommendations is that the advisory committee, along with the Parking Manager, would begin to look into feasibility of potential sites.
Question: As many are probably aware, the City is considering relocating City Hall. To what extent would the location of City Hall impact the downtown parking situation?
Answer: Given where City Hall is now, it shouldn’t have much impact, unless the City itself is expecting significant employee growth. Because it is already located downtown it likely wouldn’t have a significant impact. If it were coming from outside of the downtown then it would have a different impact.
Question: What if the City Hall were relocated out of the downtown?
Answer: Because of his main street training his own personal bias is that a City Hall located downtown is the symbol of the center. He has seen cities move them outside of downtown and the downtown businesses lose the employees who are using the downtown and they also lose the trips from the visitors who come to City Hall.
Question: He came to many of the meetings and one thing he recalls Williams making a point of is as you go through the steps over the years, one may find that a new structure isn’t needed due to changing times. His kids don’t own cars. They live in cities, they have bikes and get around via zip cars when they want to do things.
Answer: That is a really good point and why this is a two-phased plan. What we know about the economics of parking is that it is extremely expensive, particularly if you have to structure it. We may have to do that because the only available land is probably that which is now parking, at a cost of $35,000-45,000 per stall. That is why you structure this plan in two phases. It is really important for people to realize that the first 18 months is about getting control of the supply we have and then maximizing that supply. After 18 months, if we are successful at getting employees off the street and successful with our signage programs so people can find parking quicker and find the right stall for the right car, we may find we don’t need a new structure. His mentor in parking once said “you can’t build a parking garage until everything else is full”. Otherwise, there is no demand for the parking and therefore it is more difficult to find funding through pricing or anything else to make it successful. The purpose of the first phase is to set the foundation for the decisions in the future and then go back and do some data collection.
Mark (resident on 3rd Street)
Question: Thanked Williams for bringing up the effect on residential neighborhoods because that is his biggest concern. The City keeps waving off street parking requirements and there have been times when his wife has to park a block or more away and then carry groceries back. All he is asking is as you come to this plan please allow residents to have reasonable parking near their homes.
Answer: Absolutely! You’ll find in the guiding principles what is really good is that it says the priority parker in residential areas is the resident and their guest. In the plan, that doesn’t mean that the secondary user can’t use parking but if we do it within the 85% rule and we get constrained then we will have to make hard decisions about what we are going to do with employees.
Question: You talked about passes and transit. What are the transit plans?
Answer: It is important in that 18-36 month period to have discussions about routes, frequencies, destinations/connecting points etc. It is easy to say we need more transit but the community really needs to put some lines on a map and then say “this will allow someone to park here and transit in” or “this would be a great connection for employees who we don’t want to park downtown”. He is more of an A-B-C kind of person and he would rather say tell me what it looks like and why it needs to look this way. Does it march our guiding principles? Does it connect to the right neighborhood where employees live? Then say, now that is new capacity that greatly serves downtown and takes pressure off the neighborhoods. Let’s design it and cost it and then figure out how we can fund it.
Question: One of the inefficiencies she has noticed is the tourist busses get larger and larger and sometimes they take up half a block in downtown. What are the plans for tourist busses?
Answer: Ashland is unique and what you don’t want busses doing is coming in and staging in the downtown. What the plan would say is that we need to identify quick drop off zones where busses can drop off and load but they would be limited to how long they can be there. If you can stage them somewhere remotely that would be ideal.
Question: When we did the downtown survey all of the metered spots in the downtown area are marked but none of the side street parking spots are, which at times creates wasted spaces.
Answer: The industry is moving away from stripes which he thinks is Ludacris because it’s all about cramming as many cars in as you can. On one day you may put more cars on that block face because you don’t have stripes but over the course of the year you are going to put less parking there. The Main Street philosophy is that any place, in a commercial zone in particular, where you want a user to park should be striped.
Question: She is a resident now but for thirty plus years she was a visitor specifically to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival (OSF). Her parking need at that time was for an eleven hour parking space. She wonders if that type of parking need has been addressed.
Answer: It is in the plan as a strategy but the hard part is that it is a phase two option because if you just have unsigned free parking, more often than not cities have to go to two hour parking just to keep the turnover. Many cities have areas around the theaters where visitors have a longer time stay but you need to put in ten hour meters. What that allows the visitor to do is choose their time stay.
Question: How does the first eighteen month plan get carried forward? Is there a person or committee in charge of this?
Answer: The plan really calls for identification of a Parking Manager, someone who will be in charge of coordinating the system on a daily basis.
Faught said the most important part of the plan is to hire a Parking Manager. Part of the process for us is once it gets approval by the City Council then we would bring it into a budget process.
Question: There is a little bit of conflict sometimes where someone will pull into a spot where a bus would normally be and then the bus driver can’t tell there is someone waiting and then they will get bypassed, which is unfortunate because it’s a thirty minute head way.
Answer: We didn’t directly address or have recommendations regarding the loading zones because the City is in the process to do just that.
Faught said the Transportation Commission is going to be working on downtown transit and that is probably part of their conversation in connection with the downtown parking committee.
Question: You have identified some parking in the remote areas, have those owners been approached yet to see how agreeable they might be to that idea?
Answer: No. We simply went out and identified potential lots. The first thing was to identify whether there was an opportunity and then the plan calls for the Parking Manager and members of the advisory committee to literally go door to door with the data that we have and approach the owners to see if they are interested. There will also be a filtering process where we will look at feasibility and liability factors. This will occur in the first eighteen months.
Question: What is the legality of short term solutions such as parking after hours in parking lots of businesses that are closed which have signage that says “ private parking, you will be towed”?
Answer: If a private property owner, through a shared use agreement, wants to allow their private property to be used by non-tenants or customers, by law they are allowed to do that. The signage they would display would be very different though.
Question: It sounds like this isn’t going to happen unless a Parking Manager is hired. So the request to the City Council would be for the plan and coinciding budget. Is that correct?
Answer: Faught said yes and that is the important part of this whole plan. Without the Parking Manager it really is just one more of many projects that we have. A fully dedicated Parking Manager is critical in order for this to be implemented.
Question: What are the steps that would need to be put into place for a successful trolley in Ashland?
Answer: First, a route that takes people where they want to go. And second, that it is connected, on its ends, to parking. Is it stopping in front of OSF? Is it stopping in front of key businesses downtown? Is it tying to lots outside of downtown that employees can use? Is it running on a frequency schedule? Price?
Leslie (resident on Church/High Street)
Comment: It seems that City employees are the first to fill up parking and she thinks the City of Ashland could go forward with some innovative plans before other things are implemented.
Comment: She feels priced parking and residential permits are very hostile so she would like to see as much done before those two strategies are implemented.
Question: He is also an advocate He is also an advocate of a downtown shuttle, particularly an electric one. He had heard some time ago that Eugene was going to get electric busses. He looked it up and they got a 3.5 million dollar federal grant to acquire five of those busses. What is the feasibility for federal funding to fund this?
Answer: It is a funding avenue that should be pursued. If you look at the funding options in the plan, one of them is grants.
Question: It sounds like one of the main problems with parking is employees parking in the downtown. It seems like this should be the #1 priority being addressed. In her opinion it is more important than a logo or hiring a Parking Manager.
Answer: The shared use parking plan, which directly addresses employees parking on the street, is the first strategy he would do. You can’t get employees of street unless you give them a reasonable option.
Question: Because of taking Uber in Portland she wondered if an adaptation of that down the road might address some of the people that live here or are visiting.
Answer: It is. However, the bad news is there is no literature on the changing dynamics of people. We need to keep our ear to the ground and our eyes open for future data points that are being established about the impacts it has on overall parking.
See attached pdf for questions submitted at the end of the forum.