End to persistent parking problem being planned | SierraSun.com

End to persistent parking problem being planned

David Bunker

Photo by Josh Miller/Sierra Sun Finding a parking space in downtown Truckee during busy hours can be a challenge to motorists.

It doesn’t take thousands of out-of-town weekenders to convince Truckee’s merchants that the downtown parking crunch needs to be solved. The recent Fourth of July weekend was a good example of why the town spent almost $60,000 to study solutions aimed at solving parking congestion in Truckee’s historic heart, and why merchants believe paid parking is the obvious answer. “It is what’s stifling downtown,” said Jerry Wood, president of the Downtown Merchants Association. “The biggest thing holding downtown back is parking – the lack of parking.” Paid parking will increase parking turnover, free up spaces and generate money for enforcement, said Wood. “The town wins, the merchants win, and the employees win,” Wood said. “To me this is a no-brainer.”Other options, according to the study, include instituting a property-based assessment district or just improving parking utilization and management.While Cabona’s owner Stefanie Olivieri agreed that better utilization of the available spaces will increase downtown parking capacity, she said a paid parking program would take care of that. “I think that people will be shocked at how much parking there will be when [paid parking] goes into effect,” said Olivieri.

Another advantage, she said, is the program will free spaces that sometimes are taken by downtown workers and business owners.”Paid parking also weeds out the abusers that are employees and merchants themselves,” she said.But paid parking can cause controversy, warns the study completed by consultant Wilbur Smith Associates.”Instituting paid parking for popular and well-utilized locations will be a very controversial subject,” the study said. While paying to park downtown may create some debate, Wood said he believes that after people realize the options, the controversy will die.”Over time I think people will realize this is the way it is,” said Wood. “It’s a fact of life. You just have to pay for parking.”The study goes on to say that downtown merchants currently lose between 10 to 15 percent in business because of inadequate parking. And that’s not just on holiday weekends, Olivieri said. “This is a resort community, so it is kind of a 365-day-a-year shopping center,” said Olivieri.

Whatever the eventual solution, a successful program will have to increase use of underutilized downtown lots. That means providing more short-term parking and attempting to maximize the private lots that charge a flat rate for two- or four-hour parking. Although excited by the possibility of the increased business that paid parking could bring, downtown merchants said they have no illusions the plan will solve everything. But if paid parking starts making money, that revenue could go toward adding parking spaces so that Truckee’s downtown stays ahead of the parking game. “This isn’t a complete solution,” said Wood. “This is just a giant step in the right direction.”By the numbers: Downtown parkingAnnual costs for proposed downtown Truckee parking plan: $413,320 (administration, enforcement, snow removal, leasing and maintenance)Annual revenue from the paid parking program: $394, 613

(two-hour limited parking at 50 cents per hour plus citations)Additional start-up costs: $1 million(lot improvements, signage, lighting and equipment)Estimated current annual revenue generated by parking citations: $40,000* data from the draft Truckee Downtown Parking Study9