Paid parking is a controversial issue, both inside downtown as well as in the community. On the one hand, I don’t think the council should fear paid parking. As someone who works in the downtown, I see the E Street Plaza parking lot all of the time and the council should view that parking lot as a pilot project for how paid parking can work.
The reality is, as I show in my lunchtime photo, that parking lot is almost always at or near capacity. There are not a lot of open spaces there during any time. What that shows is that when people have the choice between paying money and having less convenience, they will choose to pay money.
I grew up in San Luis Obispo, and we always had parking meters in the downtown. However, there were alternatives if you didn’t want to pay. One is that you park on a more distant street and walk a number of blocks. The other is that if you were parking for short term in a parking garage, the first 90 minutes were free and after that you had an hourly rate that was prorated.
But looking at the data, I don’t believe that Davis really has a parking problem most of the time.
In their staff report, staff writes, “Generally speaking, the ideal parking occupancy rate is in the vicinity of 85%. At this usage, the parking supply is being efficiently used while spaces remain
available for new arrivals, preventing vehicles ‘circling’ downtown blocks in search of a parking space.”
They found that the average occupancy rate for the days and times collected was 70 percent, a slight decline from fall of 2015. However, downtown experiences parking peaks during the lunch and evening time frames.
Staff writes, “Downtown experiences parking ‘peaks’ during the lunch and evening timeframes. During these peaks, downtown parking closely reaches capacity, resulting in vehicles circling around the block to find spaces, resulting in added congestion.”
If the average occupancy rate is 70 percent and it factors in peak hours, that means that, most of the day, there is really no need for paid parking.
Last week’s article showed us four time slots – two at the lunch hour and two in the evening that would represent peak hours. You have Wednesday at noon, you have a heavy capacity in the southern part of downtown, with overall light capacities in the northern part – but the street parking even there on a lot of the streets is still at over 85 percent.
On a Wednesday evening during Farmer’s Market, you see the impact shifts to the western half of downtown, but if you look at the surface streets on the east side, most are in the red, even if overall capacity isn’t filled.
Friday at noon is even more congested, with three of the quadrants at red and most of the side streets in the remaining quadrant in red as well. Finally, Friday evening, as expected, is red almost across the board.
The Vanguard is certainly not opposed to metered parking. However, in our view, it might be an interesting idea to try an approach where parking is only metered during peak hours. That means weekdays from noon to 1 pm. It also means evening hours from 6 to 9pm perhaps. One thing that would be interesting to know is whether a Monday during the 6 to 9 hours is just as congested as a Friday.
Right now it appears that the plan would be for city to meter 3rd Street and southward, from D Street and eastward. But the data suggest otherwise. During the peak times, the heavy parking traffic extends beyond that area.
One thing that we do know from the E Street Plaza is that a sufficient number of people will choose the convenience of parking in close proximity to their destination over cheaper parking options and walking. Therefore, you can target the areas that are congested.
But we would suggest a peak-hour only pilot project. Run it for six months with surveys on each section in the downtown a few times during the course of that time. And we would suggest that the entire downtown is metered, with a further suggestion that the 4th and G parking garage have two hours of free parking during peak hours to encourage usage.
Let us see if that helps alleviate the parking congestion.
One other issue that I believe needs to be addressed is what does success look like here? After all, if you have a finite supply and a limited problem during peak hours, what are you hoping to accomplish through the implementation of the paid parking? Less congestion downtown? That might be an actual loss. Without increasing supply, it is hard to imagine that paid parking would alleviate the parking crunch, so I would want to understand, what does success look like?
—David M. Greenwald reporting