Meters eyed to solve parking problem | SierraSun.com

Meters eyed to solve parking problem

Christina Nelson

About a year ago, Truckee officials were approached by a parking meter salesman who claimed the town could make more than $1 million by installing parking meters.

Needless to say, some at Truckee Town Hall were skeptical.

While many other crowded downtown areas – often clogged by tourists – long ago installed parking meters to manage space shortages, Truckee’s downtown parking remains cost free.

In a couple of months, Truckee officials will consider conducting a parking study, which may lead to paid parking in Truckee’s historic downtown.

Currently, downtown has only 493 legal parking spaces. When you cram cars into every nook and cranny, every dirt lot and illegal space, that number reaches 813 spaces, said Truckee public works director Dan Wilkins, introducing the Downtown Road Re-alignment and Streetscape Corridor Plan to the town council.

When the parking portion of the streetscape plan is fully implemented, there will be 790 legal parking spaces – a 60 percent increase.

But the plan is not a project, and portions of it may be implemented when the town has extra funds, or when the council feels it’s necessary.

In the meantime, deciding how to manage available parking spaces may be the next thorn in the town’s side.

There are two basic ways to manage parking, Wilkins explained: By implementing either time limits, which already exist on Commercial Row, or pay parking.

The question does not have an either/or answer, and the town may decide to use a combination of the two in various parts of downtown. The parking study will look at the best ways to manage available downtown space now that the bypass is complete and in use.

“I’m certain that we’re going to find that there are times when our demand exceeds our supply,” Wilkins said. But officials first need to figure out when downtown is most crowded and when there are excess parking spaces, before proceeding with various management practices.

Although time restrictions on parking spaces already exist, Wilkins said management of those spots “could be improved.”

“What could be done would be to make your most attractive parking more time restrictive,” Wilkins said, adding that it would then encourage drivers to park farther away from the downtown core.

The same basic concept is applied to paid parking, Wilkins said, where the more attractive parking spaces – on Commercial Row, for example – would have parking meters or other means of collecting payments for those spaces.

Either way, the ultimate goal is to keep moving cars in and out, so people don’t take up a spot all day, or employees don’t park in a spot that retailers would prefer go to a customer.

There is an added bonus for the town if paid parking is implemented.

“If it’s successful, you can generate funds to improve landscaping, build sidewalks, that sort of thing,” Wilkins said. “My experience in other communities tells me that paid parking will generate revenue above and beyond the operating costs.”

Because different sections of downtown have different uses and needs, Wilkins said the parking study is necessary if the best parking plan is to be devised for downtown.

Ultimately, though, residents will have to make a value judgement on the issue to determine what type of parking management is appropriate for downtown.