I read with great interest the editorial board’s “Our View” (July 29) pertaining to the parking study proposed in Moscow’s fiscal year 2020 budget, and am eager to respond.
We are fortunate to have a vibrant, growing downtown, and to some degree, having a parking “problem” is a positive sign of a successful downtown. At some point as the downtown becomes more and more successful, the problem can no longer be ignored and becomes one that must be addressed.
It is true that the Moscow Transportation Commission completed a parking study in 2008 (this was not a paid study), however very few of their recommendations were adopted by the City Council at that time.
Fast forward 11 years later, and our town has one recently completed high density residential project (Identity), the addition of a new medical building which houses the CHAS clinic and University of Idaho WWAMI program (with space yet to be filled,) a 300-student expansion of New Saint Andrew’s College with an auditorium that can seat 800 (not yet realized, but planned according to the developers), the addition of many thriving businesses that attract more customers downtown, and other known future projects including a mixed-use project on the southwest corner of 6th and Jackson streets, the expanded EMSI development (announced last week), and another high density residential project being developed on Almon Street, (Barley Flats).
It is time to solve the problem, to the extent that it exists, before it gets worse.
We have come to believe that parking should always be free and funded indirectly by all through taxes, but the reality is that there is a cost. If only the suggested education would solve the parking issue. We all understand that parking is becoming increasingly difficult, and we realize walking, biking, riding public transportation or parking a few blocks away relieves some of this pressure.
What’s missing is the incentive and motivation to change behaviors. It is time to make changes to incentivize those that can, to leave their cars at home, or to park them a few blocks away.
There are many parking management strategies that result in more efficient use of parking resources by incentivizing people to change their behavior. These provide a variety of economic, social and environmental benefits and cost very little to implement. Some incur a cost to those parking their vehicles in specific zones, (the cost being paid by the users) but not to those who choose to walk, bike, take public transit or park a few blocks away. Having objective, comprehensive data with which to identify solutions can help us to identify low or no cost solutions to implement.
Implementing changes requires data to identify which solutions will be most effective in addressing the issues specific to our downtown and surrounding residential streets. What do we objectively know about the current parking situation? Is signage adequate, is enforcement efficient, are there adequate handicapped (ADA) accessible parking spaces, what times of day or days of the week are problematic, where are the holders of parking permits parking and for how long, what is the value of the parking permits, what types of trips and users are being affected (shopping, deliveries, out of town visitors, those needing ADA accessible spaces, residents, families with strollers, employees), what is the occupancy rate at what times and what locations, are there overflow problems in nearby residential streets?
To make changes without a full understanding of what the problems are, and therefore what solutions are indicated, would be a roll of the dice, and understanding the problem is essential for identifying and implementing successful solutions.
I am not alone when I say that I will not let this study gather dust on a shelf. I have heard people’s concerns, and I am ready to solve the problem, along with many other business owners, downtown shoppers, and nearby residents, but it is a mistake to make changes without the data to support their chances of success.
Brandy Sullivan serves on the Moscow City Council.