Fixing downtown parking

C. Duncan Pardo

The Downtown Parking Task Force gave its report to city council today. The task force recommends the city make all downtown parking metered, increase on-street parking rates and stop using a contractor to handle downtown parking.

The task force worked for almost a year on the report about how to improve parking downtown. Task force members praised the city for its public parking decks, but said the available parking needs to be advertised better and on-street parking needs to cost more than parking in a deck.

Lee Burke, a consultant working with the task force, said downtown employees “play the game” and move their cars from free space to free space to avoid paying for parking. Burke said making all on-street parking metered would cut down on that game and move employees into parking decks. The long-term idea is to move on-street parking to a dollar an hour and hopefully have that be more expensive than the city’s parking decks.

“People can’t find parking,” Burke said, and that cuts down on customers coming downtown. Burke said street parking in front of business is “downtown’s most valuable asset.” He also said the city should try to work with the state to make the state-owned parking lots available to the public during the weekends.

The task force said downtown has enough parking decks for now; it just needs to use them better. But also about half of all parking downtown is private. Burke said the city could work with the owners of the private parking decks to allow the public access to the unused spaces. He said privately held parking deck owners could be reluctant to allow the public into the open spaces because it could get complicated to negotiate exactly how to do that. Burke says that’s where the city could step in with guidance.

Task force members also recommended the city run a shuttle between parking decks and destinations.

Burke, who lives in Atlanta, told council that he’s enjoyed driving in and out of downtown—for now. But with growth projections hitting the roof, Raleigh needs to prepare to deal with the traffic.

Council forwarded the question over taking downtown parking out of private hands to the Budget and Economic Development committee. Council also asked David Diaz, Downtown Raleigh Alliance president and a member of the task force, to gather input from DRA members and report back to council in January.

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