Voters should support new parking garage

Posted: Sunday, September 04, 2005

Parking has long been a headache in downtown Juneau, but one critic of the system has it right: It shouldn't be a malady that business owners have to suffer with by themselves. It is a community problem that requires a collective cure.

Development consultant Murray Walsh has proposed that the city dump its requirements that downtown businesses must provide a certain number of parking spaces for their customers. Already downtown businesses have been given a break. They need to meet only 40 percent of the overall requirement of one parking space per 200 square feet. Waterfront and Egan Drive businesses must meet 70 percent of the requirement.

But city leaders should look seriously at Walsh's suggestion, which is that taking away the restriction would encourage the opening of more businesses downtown. That, in turn, would bring in revenue, which the city could use to build more parking for the general public.

It makes sense. A new public parking garage would allow employees to park some distance away from their workplaces so that closer parking spaces could be saved for customers.

Certain spaces within a city parking garage could be designated for employees of certain businesses, so they know they always have a spot. Such an arrangement could save them from the existing hassle of having to run out of their shops or offices every hour to avoid getting slapped with a ticket.

But dropping parking requirements for businesses would work only if a new municipal garage is built first. The addition of businesses downtown without additional spaces for vehicles could make the search for a parking spot even more agonizing.

Juneau residents will have a chance to help resolve the parking problem by voting yes on the third question on ballot Proposition No. 1 in the Oct. 4 election. That question will ask whether people support spending some of the revenue from a 1 percent sales tax for an array of projects, including a parking garage downtown. Main Street is one possible location for a new garage, which could relieve a large part of the downtown parking problem.

Voting to renew the sales tax for more parking is critical to keeping downtown vibrant. The city needs to move quickly to provide more parking and give downtown business owners some relief.

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