From the possibility of paid on-street parking to development of an online app that shows available spots, a group of about 40 people shared their ideas and opinions Thursday night on what the City of Edmonds should consider as part of its upcoming study of downtown parking.
In welcoming the estimated group of 40 attendees, Edmonds City Councilmember Dave Teitzel said the purpose of the meeting was to ensure citizens can provide their ideas on new initiatives before the city council and administration formulate a position or strategies to address them.
“We’ve heard you all very clearly that you do expect to have a chance to be heard early in the process,” Teitzel said.
City of Edmonds Public Works Director Phil Williams said the comments received both during the meeting and in an online survey — available at this link through Monday, Aug. 12 — will “help shape the scope” of the planned Downtown Parking Study. The study will be performed by a transportation consulting firm once the Edmonds City Council approves a contract, scope and expenditure.
The last downtown parking study was conducted in 2003, Williams said, so the study will review what has changed since it was conducted. “Things have changed in Edmonds in the last 16 years,” Williams noted. “The city has certainly picked up a lot of intensity and vibrancy in the downtown that has impacts positive and negative, but in this case it does affect parking and the parking demand.”
The city is negotiating a professional services contract with the consultant Framework. Public input will be incorporated into a draft scope of work that will be presented to the City Council’s Planning and Public Works Committee during its Tuesday, Aug. 13 meeting. The hope is to have that scope of work finalized and then brought before the full council for approval on Aug. 20, Williams said.
While attendees were encouraged to comment Thursday night on any aspect of parking in the city of Edmonds, the focus of the study will be in the downtown area, bordered by Caspers Street to the north, 9th Avenue to the east and Pine Street to the south.
There is some urgency to begin collecting downtown parking data right away so that it can reflect parking demands during the “good weather portion of the year” in August and September, Williams said. “Collecting parking data in the wintertime wouldn’t be that informative. That’s really not when we have our acute parking issues,” he added.
Williams explained that parking studies are usually done manually by a consultant who brings a half dozen workers into town armed with computer tablets. They walk the streets and count the cars, then come back later to see if the cars have moved to determine how much turnover there is. “It’s a physical process, kind of old school, frankly,” Williams said.
Instead, the city is hoping to make the process more cost-effective by flying a city-owned drone around town to capture photos of parked cars on public streets and in public and and private parking lots. “Then you can stitch all those individual pictures together in software, let them (the consultants) just sit at a desk and count the cars at that hour of the day, at that day of the week, at that day of the month, and then you can compare that data after the fact,” Williams explained.
Once that data collection is complete, the city will hold at least one more public meeting so that citizens can review the findings. The goal is to analyze baseline conditions, then offer a range of recommendations to ease parking congestion.
Williams provided the group with a list of questions that participants then considered after they broke into smaller discussion groups:
1) What is your main reason for coming to downtown Edmonds/what weekly frequency? Do you always drive or use other modes of transportation to get there?
2) What personal goals do you think the parking study should achieve (based on parking problems observed in downtown/specify time of day & day of week problems most commonly encountered)?
3) As you think about your ability to access downtown amenities, what is your current experience and how could that experience be improved?
4) For business owners, what issues/concerns do you have regarding your patrons being able to access your business? For residents, what concerns do you have getting to a business in downtown?
During the breakout sessions, participants came up with a range of responses to the questions posed.
“Winter is the problem,” one participant declared, noting that downtown customers don’t want park blocks away when the weather is cold and rainy. “People don’t mind walking a few blocks in the sunshine,” he added.
“Everyone’s parking in the (Edmonds) Library parking lot and my daughter and I can never find a space when we want to go to the library,” another participant said.
Following the small-group discussions, everyone came back together to hear group representatives report their findings.
- The city has been more aggressive about issuing parking tickets and that may discourage visitors from coming back.
- Revisit the designated locations for employee parking, which employers purchase permits for. Some say those spots are located too close to the downtown core and take up valuable customer parking. The city has issued 725 employee passes.
- Some attendees were also concerned about the city’s practice of charging residents $10 for a parking permit if they live in an area where there is insufficient off-street parking. A total of 834 of these residential permits have been issued.
- The city should consider securing “flex spaces” — parking lots of churches and other faith organizations, for example — to provide employee parking during the week.
- There is a need for more designated parking spaces for those with disabilities.
- Loading zones should be created for passenger drop-off and pick-up, and also for commercial vehicles.
- Construction of a parking structure should be considered if funds are available.
- Consider expanding the duration of, and stops for, the free trolley (which circulates downtown during the holidays and is being used on a trial basis in August) to include other neighborhoods such as 5 Corners and Westgate.
- Consider the impacts of extra parking demand created by accessory dwelling units.
- Get the word out about available free parking after hours. For example, there are now four banks downtown that allow parking in their lots in the evening. And the Sound Transit lot for the Sounder train next to Salish Crossing is empty in the evenings because the trains don’t run, but many people don’t know they can park there.
- Provide places for people to park all day. Consider charging a fee as visitors in particular are likely to appreciate the convenience and will pay it.
- Change the three-hour parking maximum to two hours or one hour.
- Address the issue of ferry commuters who park their vehicles in a residential neighborhood overnight or all weekend.
- Address the issue of planter boxes on city streets (7th and Alder was mentioned) that take up parking spaces.
- In conducting the study, make sure to anticipate future growth from visitors coming from surrounding communities.
- Look to see what other communities have done or are doing so the city doesn’t have to “reinvent the wheel.”
- Disseminate information about when businesses are busy and when are not, so that customers can time their visits accordingly.
- Provide remote parking locations and shuttle service for both employees and visitors.
- Institute paid street parking with the first hour free.
- Address parking congestion that will be generated by the redevelopment of Civic Field.
- Create a park and ride and shuttle service from the current Union Oil location
- Investigate how the possibility of the state eventually moving the ferry dock south would impact parking downtown.
- Consider having citizens — rather than city staff — create the next round of parking survey questions.
- Monitor Sound Transit plans for expanding parking at its Sounder Train station.
- Explore options that the Port of Edmonds has for increasing parking.
- Investigate private parking partnerships.
- Revisit studying parking demand during major summer events, such as the Fourth of July and Taste Edmonds. Because this parking study is being done late in the summer, it won’t reflect those activities.
- Evaluate parking requirements in the city code for new development.
- Explore the applicability of an online app service for parking.
At the end of the meeting, Edmonds City Councilmember Tom Mesaros thanked everyone for attending. and urged citizens to stay involved as the process moves forward. He also encouraged attendees to spread the word about the online parking survey, which must be filled out by Monday, Aug. 12.
A video of the meeting will be posted soon and we will provide that link when it is available.
— Story and photos by Teresa Wippel