Garage traffic an issue

Published 6:00 am Sunday, June 5, 2016

By Reid Posey

After voting at last month’s meeting to recommend the parking lot behind the Oxford Square North shopping center on North Lamar Boulevard to the Board of Aldermen as the site of a proposed parking garage, the Downtown Parking Advisory Commission spent much of this month’s meeting expanding on their discussion of logistical issues surrounding the project.

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One particularly pressing issue that arose was the inevitable traffic dilemma in an already relatively congested area that would result from the parking garage.

One proposed measure to help alleviate this congestion was to change the direction of the one-way alley just past the Bacchus restaurant, running between Jackson Avenue and the parking lot representing the proposed site for the parking garage, from north to south. In doing so, the alley would change from an entrance to the parking lot to an exit, thereby providing three different points of exit for traffic.

The commission ultimately voted to add this measure to the list of recommendations to the Board of Aldermen and also discussed the possibility of engaging with a traffic engineer to conduct studies on traffic surrounding the proposed site for the parking garage.

Commissioner Kevin Frye noted that there were several issues that still had not been explored yet by the commission that he felt needed to be discussed, including many other logistical issues involved with the location, potential size, and control measures of the proposed garage.

Mayor Pat Patterson, on the other hand, maintained that now that the commission had decided on the best location for the garage, it was time to get out of the way of engineers and experts as they work out the more technical, logistical issues involved with the project. He argued that by not allowing the experts to do their job and trying to iron out these issues themselves, the commission would slow down progress on the project and over complicate the process.

One other issue raised during the meeting was the potential for students to use the garage to park on the Square and then ride public transit to campus, which some feel could potentially negatively impact the effectiveness of the garage for those using it for Square business. Commission Chairman Tom Sharpe said that they would simply have to monitor if these issues manifested themselves and affected the quality of parking at the garage and respond accordingly.

Ultimately, Sharpe ended the meeting by outlining the commission’s plan for the next couple of months. He said that they would take this month to figure out how much money would be allotted for the parking garage project, and then next month, they could discuss some specific questions that could impact the design of the garage, such as whether the garage will serve any other functions, whether the garage would be operated by people or technology, whether drivers would pay for parking on the way in or out, and any other pertinent issues affecting the project.

Street parking

At the meeting, Patterson also brought up parking issues surrounding residences near the Fifth Street and Tyler Avenue area, as students and other non-residents have been crowding these streets with their vehicles. Although a two-hour time limit has been imposed on these spots, Patterson said that the commission needs to be exploring the possibility of other solutions, including the implementation of a hang-tag system for residents of the area, a system used in various neighborhoods in other cities.

Patterson said that naturally there are kinks to work out in terms of the potential enforcement of such a policy, the number of hang-tags a given residence would receive, and how such a policy would affect the day-to-day quality of life of the current residents, but that a solution to the problem was something worth exploring in the coming months.

Parking report

The commission was also presented with the monthly parking report and the proposed parking budget for the upcoming fiscal year.

Parking Director Matt Davis presented last month’s statistics, noting that the month has been relatively steady, outside of the downtick in revenue due to the end of the school year halfway through the month and the absence of much of the student population. Davis did say that hopefully they would see an increase in activity due to the NCAA baseball regional.

As for the annual parking budget, Davis called attention to two amendments that would raise the budget for the repairs and maintenance of parking meters from $4,000 to $10,000, while also providing $5,000 more for miscellaneous disbursements that would help to pay for the replacements of meter batteries. After discussing these two increases, the commission agreed that it would be more effective to put the two areas under the same umbrella of “maintenance and repair,” and they approved the amended budget.