Surveys soliciting views, input on Downtown parking

By: Gloria Young Journal Staff Writer
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Nearly a year after completion of the city of Auburn’s parking study, the issue is getting renewed attention. The Downtown Business Association recently distributed parking surveys for business owners, employees and customers. The survey is a follow-up to the city’s study, according to Harvey Roper, past president of the DBA. “We want to look at all the options,” Roper said. “This is how do we want to implement it. This will give us some input. We’ll take it back to the city and say this is what’d we’d like.” The 2009 study, which was conducted by Walker Parking Consultants and cost $71,000, made four general recommendations — revision of city codes “to better adapt to new land uses,” evaluation of parking management strategies in Old Town including adding parking meters, modification of parking requirements to address current demand and future development; and education of Auburn citizens on the need to “provide parking efficiently,” the Journal reported previously. The study determined there is sufficient parking. So the focus will be on making improvements, said WIlfred Wong, Auburn’s community development director. Signage, changing the parking limit to two hours and evaluating the different types of parking are some of the things the city will address, he said by phone Thursday. The DBA’s three surveys were put together by Gary Capps, head of the group’s economic restructuring committee, Roper said. The questionnaire for business owners asks about the busiest day of the week and busiest time of day, where they, their employees and customers park; if they find parking adequate to meet their needs, if signage is adequate and if they’d be willing to lease spaces or share cost of building a parking garage. Among the questions for employees are how they get to downtown, where they park, how far they walk from parking to work and if they’d be willing to support and pay for a space in an employee parking lot. Customers can provide information on how difficult it is to find a space, convenience to their destination, if they’d pay for parking and if they can easily identify the public parking areas. The surveys were e-mailed to the Downtown Business Association’s 450 members. Some of the questionnaires have been returned already, DBA president Jim Bril said. No specific deadline has been set, but the committee would like to have the surveys back as soon as possible, hopefully by mid-March, he added. For customers, the surveys can be completed onsite at Downtown businesses. The city already has some paid spaces around town, including in the lot on High Street next to Depoe Bay. Cost for a space runs $180 a year, Roper said. “There’s a lot of demand for (those spaces),“ Roper said. “There’s a little lottery to select applicants.” Besides increasing the number of paid spots, another suggestion that has been floated is to have a metered lot, with customers getting parking tokens from Downtown merchants, Roper said. The Streetscape project has somewhat impacted the number of on-street parking spaces. With completion of the first phase, 17 spaces in front of Downtown businesses was reduced to 11, according to Bernie Schroeder, the city’s engineering division manager. Part of the parking problem may be that visitors to downtown aren’t aware of some of the parking areas, said Shelle Parsons, owner of The Book Haven. Prior to Streetscape, Parsons said she didn’t know about spaces located behind some of the buildings (along Lincoln Way between Central Square and the clocktower). But convenience may be a larger issue. “Lots of customers like to park in front and go in,” she said. “They don’t like to have to walk (a long distance).” Lisa Hastie-Miller, owner of Scentchips in Downtown, said she’d like to see more open parking and parking limits extended beyond three hours. “Because by the time you shop and eat lunch, you’ve spent longer than three hours,” she said. Validated parking for customers is another possibility, she said. The DBA welcomes input from the community, Bril said. Jim Ruffalo contributed to this story.