More than 500 people have taken part in a downtown Delaware parking study, and one of the conclusions may not be surprising to many.
“We asked, ‘what would improve the parking experience downtown?’” said Justin Goodwin, an urban planner for Columbus-based MKSK, which is conducting the study. “The vast majority of people said more centralized parking, and a lot of people specifically said a garage.”
He added: “There was a lot of discussion about whether or not there should be more parking, and a garage was mentioned by a number of folks. We did a word cloud, and ‘garage’ came up big.”
Another word that was popular was “know” — as in, some people “know” where to park without getting ticketed or towed away.
“There’s also a level of knowledge about where you can park, even if you’re not really supposed to park there,” Goodwin said at the city of Delaware’s parking and safety committee meeting on Monday. “People who come downtown all the time, they know where they’re not being towed. For those in the know, it’s not so big an issue.”
However, not everyone is in the know.
“The majority of people say they find it difficult to park downtown,” Goodwin said. “A lot of people say it depends ‘when I come.’ Some had more colorful ways to describe parking.”
The city last did a parking study in 2006; and although the Delaware’s comprehensive plan in 2008 didn’t specifically mention parking, it did stress the importance of the downtown. Last year, the parking committee began researching the issue. This month, MKSK is compiling data for a report it will present to City Council. The consultants have conducted online and in-person interviews, met with a steering committee and other groups, and used drones to take hourly aerial photos of parking spaces.
MKSK is analyzing data, such as who is using which parking spots at particular times during normal days and special events like First Friday; the distribution of parking restrictions; and the structure of fees and fines.
Goodwin mentioned other findings. For example, there are about 3,300 parking spaces downtown, and about 1,700 of them are privately owned. The new signs installed last year by the city are helpful, but there is still confusion about where to park, and there is a proliferation of signs. There was public concern over last year’s increase in parking fines for first-time visitors, but it has been effective in changing behavior. Also, a majority of people said they considered three blocks too far to walk to and from a parking space.
A preliminary report will be made to the steering committee in early June, and a series of short-, medium- and long-term recommendations will be made to City Council in July.
Gary Budzak may be reached at 740-413-0904 or on Twitter @GaryBudzak.