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New parking plan closer to reality

Posted: Thursday, June 10, 2010

A plan aimed at bettering parking in the downtown core is a step closer to reality after its draft approval by the Planning Commission Tuesday night.

The plan sets a goal of 80 to 85 percent occupancy of the city's downtown parking spaces at any given time, with flexibility to change fees based on achieving that goal. Many of those spaces would be managed by parking meters that recognize license plates.

This would mean a person could park in one spot, realize he was running out of hours after a long lunch or a meeting, and pay for more time by going to whichever meter is closest, said Senior Planner Ben Lyman.

The city has put out a request for proposals for 24 meters.

The plan in its draft form suggests two free hours of parking per day per vehicle, originally suggested by the Downtown Business Association, Lyman said. As with fees, if two hours was later found to be too short or too long a time period, it could change.

"We're not going to have the same rate all over town, because some places might be in higher demand than other places," Community Development Director Dale Pernula said.

It would be the city manager's office, however, that would make that decision and not the Assembly. Another goal of the plan is to depoliticize decision-making around parking.

The plan also calls for a parking management committee composed of five city staffers and four Juneau residents, one of whom should be a downtown business owner and one a downtown resident.

In previous discussions, Assembly members have expressed support for the plan. There has also been a number of public comment and input opportunities.

Charles Collins, Behrends Keycenter Manager, said in written comments to Lyman that he supports the plan, but thinks two hours is too long to effectively discourage "camping" and free up street parking. The Juneau Economic Development Council has also expressed its support for the variable fee scenario and pay-by-license plate plan.

The downtown transportation center, which will provide 237 parking spaces, according to a parking inventory in the plan, is scheduled to open this summer. Some of those spaces would be available for monthly passes, and some for hourly parking, Pernula said.

The inventory lists 1,320 total spaces, 313 of which are in residential areas around the downtown core. The rough boundaries of the area that would be managed in this initial plan are Basin Road and Seventh Street, Dixon Street and Main Street, the cruise ship terminal, and Gastineau Avenue and Star Hill.

The plan also calls for residential parking zones to allow residents to use on-street parking. Depending on neighborhood need and space availability, fees could be waived.

Though the parking ordinance cannot legally mandate how proceeds will be spent, the intention is to use 50 percent of the proceeds for operations, maintenance, enforcement and expansion of public parking facilities, and 50 percent for improvements, maintenance, security and beautification of the neighborhoods in which the money is collected.

The next regularly scheduled Assembly meeting is June 28, though the agenda for that meeting has not yet been set. Ordinances are first introduced and then decided upon at a subsequent meeting.

The draft plan and ordinance is available at http://www.juneau.org/cddftp/ParkingManagement111809.php.

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



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