W-B Officials Plan To Examine City Parking
WILKES-BARRE — Officials want to bring in a professional consultant to find ways to improve parking in the city.
City administrator Ted Wampole intends to present council with a resolution at Tuesday’s work session authorizing city officials to retain the services of Desman Design Management for a study/assessment of the city’s parking system.
Parking in the city became a more frequent topic of discussion in October, when Mayor Tony George first proposed doubling the parking meter rate to $2 per hour. The new rate took effect the week before last.
George said the new rate, which he projected would raise parking meter revenue from about $525,000 to $1 million annually, would also deter long-term curbside parking, which would benefit downtown businesses with a faster turnaround of available parking spaces.
Council President Tony Brooks said at a meeting earlier this month that there needs to be a larger discussion about parking, especially given the growth of new technology such as parking meters that can accept credit and debit cards.
Wampole agreed and noted that the city had advertised two requests for proposals from companies offering parking meter technology, after drivers and city parking enforcement employees reported many problems with smartphone parking app company Pango. The city contract with Pango expires in March.
Wampole said he also expected to have a proposal for a parking study ready for council to consider this week. The city’s early intervention plan recommends such a study, and the mayor set aside $45,000 in this year’s budget for it.
Larry Newman, executive director of the Diamond City Partnership, an alliance formed to promote downtown revitalization, had also called for a larger discussion of parking as well as a professional parking study.
“What the business community would not want to see is to let the discussion stop simply with doubling the price of parking at meters,” Newman said earlier this month.
He and Wampole both noted that the city last conducted a parking study in 2003-2004.
While city officials couldn’t immediately locate that city-funded study on Monday, Newman pointed to a precursor of the city’s study on the Diamond City Partnership website.
An initial parking study was part of the Strategic Market Development Plan for Downtown Wilkes-Barre that was put together for the partnership by three consultants and published in May 2003. The study was conducted to find ways to promote downtown revitalization.
Some of the more interesting findings in the parking and public transportation section of the study were that:
• The overall downtown parking management and operation issues were significant, and additional study was necessary to address the many issues that existed.
• The on-street parking management arrangement (staffing, organizational location and ticket procedures) would not promote on-street conditions vital for downtown development.
• Seventy-six percent of downtown meters were occupied, but only 30 percent were legally occupied.
• Paid meter rate of 30 percent, compared to national norm of 80 percent. There was a meter violation rate of 43 percent, compared to national norm of 7 percent, and a violation capture rate of 10 percent, compared to national norm of 33 percent.
• Enforcement of parking laws and meters was sporadic and ineffective, and substandard compared to industry norms.
• City parking enforcement staff was understaffed and/or deployment was ineffective, with only two civilian enforcement officers for approximately 700 meters. Hiring a third officer was recommended.
• Short-term parking for institutional and retail customers was insufficient, and seasonal shopping at holidays created conditions that resulted in double-parking.
• Parking facility occupancies could have been reduced by weak on-street enforcement, fueling perceptions of unavailable parking downtown.
• Parking problems had more to do with management and less to do with quantity.
The study made numerous recommendations, many of which were successfully implemented and helped with downtown revitalization efforts, Newman said.
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