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Sunday, April 20, 2008

Commentary: The Perpetual Problem of Parking in the Downtown

If there is one problem that the City Council has not adequately addressed it is the problem of parking. And really to be fair, this city council is not unique for the failure to properly deal with that problem, nor is this city unique.

However, in many ways, the solutions have not solved the problem. For instance, it is my view that the re-parking prohibitions are an unmitigated disaster. I have not seen it free up parking spots, what it does do is preclude long term parking and people from therefore doing longer term shopping or entertainment stops. That I think is the opposite of what you want to achieve.

Last year we discovered that this policy worked so well that it reduced the amount of parking tickets and therefore cut into the city's revenue.

This week we learn that the DDBA is in agreement that a solution to the parking in downtown is to meter the parking in the E Street Plaza. By itself, it is not a bad idea, I come from a city that has metered parking, but in order to provide enough of it, they had to build not one but two parking garages on both sides of the downtown and expand one of them.

The metering might provide some revenue, but I fail to see how it is going to deal with the broader problems of parking.

In isolation this problem would be somewhat of an annoyance. However, time is ticking so to speak because at some point there will be built Target out by Mace and Second Street with presumably a large amount of parking. That will take business from our downtown core. As some fear, the combination of parking problems and cheap merchandise at Target may imperil our downtown. And yet there does not seem to be a real sense of urgency among either the council or the downtown on this front.

Adding to the parking problems is the Amtrak Station that is attracting numerous out-of-town parkers who come here from the convenient and easy parking, leaving the residents of Davis high and dry.

We have a parking facility in the downtown, but in my view it is not located in the proper spot. It is on G and Fourth Street. That puts it on the east side of downtown and away from the main traffic flows and off the main track.

The parking situation calls for some more innovative solutions. We need to find a way to get parking into a central and convenient location, where it is easy for the traffic to access and easy for the pedestrians to walk to the rest of downtown.

This should not be an impossible problem. This past week, I had Matt Rexroad on the radio show, he mentioned problems with Woodland's downtown, namely that it was one long strip. Davis has a good compact downtown that should be walkable if you can find the right location to locate your parking that is.

At the end of the day, parking perhaps even more than Target or even combined with Target might be the biggest threat to the vitality of our downtown and that would be a shame because the downtown has the potential to be a really great community asset.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting