After years of frustrated motorists putting-up with the lack of parking downtown, Scottsdale City Council is exploring options to alleviate the issue.
During a May 10 special meeting and work study session, the council was presented with suggested solutions, based on survey responses and stakeholder feedback. The proposed ideas covered everything from high-tech parking apps and maps to additional trolley hours and simply adding more signage to alert drivers where to park.
The council ultimately gave city staff a proverbial head-nod to continue working on and ironing out the solutions; however, one city councilmember raised the question of how long this “band-aid” would fix the problems.
The parking issue was last visited approximately 10 years ago, said Transportation Director Paul Basha at the beginning of the presentation. But, the lack of parking issue in the city dates back to 1962, he said.
During the May 10 meeting, Mr. Basha and Economic Development Director Danielle Casey presented council with the results of a recently completed survey conducted between Feb. 2 and April 24.
As part of the outreach, a total of 144 online surveys were collected and meetings were held with the Scottsdale Area Chamber of Commerce, the 5th Avenue Merchants Association, a group representing Southbridge tenants, and additional stakeholders.
Forty-two downtown businesses responded to the survey representing more than 3,250 total employees in downtown Scottsdale.
Based on survey results, some of the proposed solutions include:
- Create a trolley “express route” to run from 5 a.m. to 10 a.m. Monday through Friday beginning July 2016;
- Re-sign public on-street parking;
- Develop a 700-space privately funded parking garage off of 6th Avenue;
- And implement a wayfinding and parking mobile phone application
Of survey responses, 75 percent stated a parking app would help find parking downtown; 78 percent stated better signage could help; 79 people responded a 6th Avenue parking garage would be beneficial to business in the area; 43 percent responded a longer trolley service would be somewhat beneficial while 30 percent stated it would be very beneficial.
“We have discovered that competing cities throughout the Valley, throughout the state and throughout the nation have four attributes that we in Scottsdale do not have,” said Mr. Basha during the May 10 city council meeting.
These four attributes include lower parking requirements, particularly for offices; subsidized parking availability; more enforcement and paid parking; and more transit options.
“Our competing cities have more transit options then Scottsdale historically had, and currently still has,” Mr. Basha told the council.
The first of the proposed solutions is creating an express route for the downtown trollies — at an annual cost of $200,000 — to provide employees and visitors a park-and-ride option.
“What this express route would do is help major employers with a good amount of employees to park off-site and then take the trolley in,” said Ms. Casey during the May 10 meeting.
“The nice thing that this does is it actually then, if we continued this service at 10 a.m., the regular tourist route could start an hour earlier than it does right now, which could be a benefit to tourists visiting.”
The Downtown Trolley route operates in a 10-minute frequency, said Mr. Basha. The proposed express route directly connects parking spaces to the need for employee use in the northeast quadrant downtown.
“It is not uncommon to have slightly different routes for different times of the day,” said Mr. Basha pointing out a tourist detour route could be utilized in this kind of a scenario.
“The idea is, every other trip — every other 10 minutes — one 10 minute period we would use the detour route and the other we would use the normal, more tourist-oriented route. We have discussed this with some of the employers in the northeast quadrant and they concur this would be beneficial.”
Secondly, staff is exploring the idea of re-signing public street parking in the northeast quadrant of downtown.
“This includes, re-signing public on-street parking in the northeast quadrant to two-hour limits to encourage more turnover and people moving cars around — and not doing what we think is going on, which is utilizing the space and then moving on three-hour increments,” said Ms. Casey.
In addition, the city could sign remaining unrestricted garage parking in the northwest quadrant for a three-hour limit and provide for enforcement increase in the fiscal year 2016-17 budget.
“There is interest in having better tools and ways to drive around. I will tell you that we did actually ride the trolley when we were thinking about this express route with some downtown employer representatives,” said Ms. Casey. “And when we rode the trolley, I was even looking for some of the signage to tell me where some of the parking was. While it’s there, we did recognize there is always room for improvement.”
City staff has also begun evaluating the technology that other cities, such as San Francisco and Los Angeles, are using to enforce parking.
“There is amazing technology out there,” said Ms. Casey.
The team has started researching alternative tools such as sensors in the ground that will alert an enforcement officer of cars that have not been moved for a certain period of time instead of using unsightly parking meters.
“If enforcement is better and more efficient, and increased, we really do believe — and the employers we talked to believe and understand — if you’re enforcing and people are getting ticketed regularly, behaviors will start to change.”
Additionally, mobile tools such as interactive maps that can show users the available open parking spaces will keep less cars from circling around the downtown area and clogging up the roads.
“Cameras mounted to poles can now look over parking lots,” said Ms. Casey. “They lay a virtual grid over it and tell the app how many spaces approximately are free. We think this would be tremendous in increasing our enforcement ability and being able to educate and give tools as to where parking is available.”
A temporary band aid
City council members echoed sentiments of continuing forward with the proposed parking solutions, but raised the question of how much parking the city is responsible for paying for, and how long these fixes will last for.
“While this is wonderful, I think it’s a band-aid,” said Councilwoman Virginia Korte.
“If it’s a band-aid of three years or five years, I think it’s that sort of a band-aid. If we don’t start thinking bigger on how to continue to maintain a thriving downtown of commerce and livability, we are going to be out-competed. A lot of this is the parking and the subsidized parking spaces and subsidizing the automobile.”
Councilwoman Linda Milhaven raised the question of the proprietors who are asking for more parking from the city, but not implementing changes on their own.
“In terms of the expanded trolley service and $200,000 at the city’s expense: we are in an interesting position,” said Councilwoman Milhaven.
“I don’t see that it’s the place for a city, to provide parking for employees. We provide parking for patrons at retail establishments, but I don’t think it’s our place beyond our parking credit commitment, to provide for parking.”
Mayor Jim Lane agreed with Ms. Casey in the fact that some of these issues can be turned around fairly quickly if the city puts their noses to the grindstone immediately.
“I think from my perspective, working and moving forward on just about everything you’ve got here is something that is desirable,” said Mayor Lane. “Also, to your last point, things that we can do quickly and immediately, given available resource’s, is something that is exactly that — a priority.”