The city of Delaware is expected to implement more than a third of the improvements for the downtown parking system by March 2018.
City Council accepted the downtown parking study submitted by Columbus-based MKSK consultants at the Feb. 27 meeting.
“They came up with a list of recommendations, which we have broken down into [an implementation] matrix, ” Vice Mayor Kent Shafer said.
The matrix has 50 enhancements primarily labeled as short-, mid- and long-term. Some will require further Council action, Shafer told The Gazette.
An advocacy group is also in the works to address some of the improvements. Shafer will have an internal work meeting next month to develop the group, which would have downtown property and business owners, customers and residents.
He will keep Council informed about the improvements made throughout the process, while Assistant City Manager Jackie Walker is the lead staff member for the project. Council would get an explanation if any of the short-term tasks are not completed in time, she said.
Four departments and the advocacy group were assigned to one or more of the 16 short-term enhancements to be completed by early next year.
Four of the improvements would require “a substantial amount of input” from the downtown community, according to the matrix. They are:
• Update the parking enforcement policy to extend enforcement hours of time-restricted parking and parking meters from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. to assist with the management of parking demand during peak evening times.
• Implement a demand-based pricing program. Spaces with the highest demand, or prime spaces, would have the highest fees to encourage turnover.
• Reassign 10-hour public lot and on-street meters to three hours or less within the downtown core. Remove 10-hour meters from lots on Winter and Franklin streets with 10-hour meters possibly placed on outlying streets.
• Adjust pricing to more appropriate hourly rates for an active downtown.
The other enhancements include encouraging downtown visitors to use alternative modes of transportation such as buses and bicycles; an audit to identify potential street light improvements to make walking to remote parking areas at night safer; and introduce clear signs to indicate when and where parking spaces are available.
There is also a public information and education campaign to publicize parking improvements. Delaware Economic Development Specialist Kelsey Scott is developing a page on the city’s website to provide such information, but a launch date is still to be determined.
And the city will study the costs for the installation and maintenance of smart meters and kiosks along with personnel for extended enforcement hours.
Council received some feedback on the study and matrix from a resident and a downtown business owner at the meeting.
Patrick Bailey, the owner of record store Endangered Species, 11 W. Winter St., agreed with most of the enhancements.
“I’ve read the matrix several times. I think 90 percent of it I agree with and the 10 percent won’t get done anyway,” he said.
He said education was the most important piece of the project especially for new downtown businesses and property owners.
“They have to be educated before they sign the lease,” Bailey said.
Meanwhile, resident Jane Moore expressed concerns with the changes and said the current system was fine.
“If ain’t broke don’t fix it, and I don’t think it’s broken,” Moore said.
She said the downtown “has gone so nicely” with the shops, restaurants and Main Street Delaware programs such as First Friday.
Moore said her hometown in West Virginia “killed” its downtown after it introduced paid parking with kiosks. Shoppers now go elsewhere, she said, because they needed to have a “pocketful of quarters” and the rates continue to increase.
“If we mess this up we’re going to be very sorry,” Moore said.
Gazette reporter Brandon Klein can be reached by email or on Twitter at @brandoneklein.