Changes Will Be Monitored Closely To Evaluate Effects

Following several months of occasionally contentious debate, the City Council has approved new parking regulations for the downtown area. The new regulations require payment at metered spaces in off-street parking lots and garages 24 hours a day, with the exception of Sunday. On-street regulations have not been changed.

The new regulations were suggested and promoted by the downtown Business Improvement District (BID) with several goals:

  1. ensuring adequate turnover of parking spaces during dining hours for restaurants;
  2. encouraging downtown residents to utilize either on-site private parking or to purchase public parking permits for overnight parking; and
  3. facilitating a better assessment of residential parking demand and thereby setting appropriate on-site parking requirements in our zoning code.

Opponents raised objections related to the adequacy of residential parking alternatives and the potential for parking spillover into neighborhoods, while also questioning whether the new regulations would achieve their intended purpose.

Six members of the Council, myself included, gave the benefit of the doubt to the BID, while also insisting that the impact of changes be closely evaluated, so that regulations can be revised or rescinded if their effects prove negative. It is fair to say that we approach this issue with some uncertainty, and with the knowledge that there is no perfect solution.

Even in a best-case scenario, these new parking regulations should be regarded as short-term measures. In the longer-run, as new technology is introduced both on-street and off-street, the City should move to a variable rate structure that shifts by location and hour according to demand levels, with the goal of 85% utilization of all parking areas 24-7. Unfortunately, our present parking infrastructure does not give us the tools to pursue such a policy.