Avoiding the 'one-hour' shuffle

Posted: Friday, January 29, 2010

Juneau drivers could end up paying more for downtown on-street parking than a spot in one of the city's parking garages, given the direction of parking management planning talks.

Michael Penn/Juneau Empire
Michael Penn/Juneau Empire

"We want to ... make parking on the street more expensive than parking in the garage," said Planning and Zoning Commission Vice-Chair Mike Sartre. "If parking in the garage is higher than the street, no one will ever use it, which is the situation we have with Marine (Parking Garage) right now. If it's higher, people will play one-hour shuffle (with spots on the street)."

At its meeting Tuesday, the Planning and Zoning Commission directed the city's Community Development department to further study that option, called the "variable fee" option. Ben Lyman, senior planner for the department, had outlined that scenario and others, the rest of which did not do as much to reach goals the commission endorsed at the meeting, Sartre said.

Those goals are:

• Managing on and off-street parking so as to ensure that both long and short-term parkers can find spots

• Incorporating parking as part of a "multi-modal transportation system, ... recognizing that adequate parking cannot be supplied at any destination in the downtown area for peak demand, and that walking, bicycling, use of shuttles/buses, carpooling, and other transportation pools are part of the solution to any parking problem"

• Making parking simple enough that parkers can "easily know" how long they may park in any given space, and, if there's a fee, what the fee for parking in that space is.

"If we don't have a plan to manage it (parking), it will be a mess," Sartre said.

How the city should proceed with the parking situation is a "bucket of worms," said Assembly member and Planning and Zoning Commission liaison Bob Doll.

Doll said many issues that may not be directly related are affected by parking, such as the number of downtown residents. "It (residents) makes for a more vital downtown... and attracts business," he said. "But whether or not people are willing to (live there) depends on parking."

Another issue is the potential effect of parking meters in downtown spaces on residential parking in the area, Doll said.

"One of the effects of that is everyone who doesn't want to pay for parking will spill over into areas that don't have meters, like Gastineau Avenue up the hill," Doll said.

Doll said one local resident testified at Tuesday's meeting asking that garage parking be free so as to encourage people to use it and not park in his neighborhood.

Planning is also currently complicated by its budget ramifications and timing. It comes while the city is cutting costs and potentially laying off eight to 10 employees due to a multi-million dollar projected budget shortfall.

All scenarios will require expenses for operations and maintenance, including enforcement, Lyman said in a memorandum.

Some will also require capital investments in infrastructure like meters, he said.

"The way parking is currently managed or not managed is largely a result of a minimum of decisions," Doll said. "Hard decisions like investing in meters and coping with the results of having meters - those decisions haven't been made and would have to be confronted if we're going to change (the way we address parking.)

"The solution is going to involve making a choice that is going to put some people at a disadvantage," Doll said. "There is no choice I can see that everybody will be happy with."

Community Development Director Dale Pernula said the department would like to have plans settled by May, so that the city can purchase any necessary equipment for the Downtown Transportation Center.

• Contact reporter Mary Catharine Martin at 523-2276 or maryc.martin@juneauempire.com.

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