RACINE — Hunting for the perfect set of Downtown parking solutions is a multipronged challenge.

On Tuesday, the second day of the Downtown planning sessions led by Toole Design Group, Toole brought in parking experts Walker Consultants to study Downtown parking issues and, ultimately, make recommendations.

“Right now what we know is that the (parking) system isn’t fully utilized,” said Philip Baron, Walker’s director of planning. “Meaning, all the spaces that the city owns and operates are not being used on a daily basis, so there’s excess supply. And that’s a good thing; that means that there’s room for absorption.”

With pending Downtown developments and growth, Baron said, “what the city wants to understand is: How do we plan for five years out? “

Baron said the planners want to make sure that businesses that are peppered throughout the area have access to supply just as the big new developments would.

In response to a question about angle parking compared with parallel parking, Baron said the gain there is about 10 to 15 percent: a few more spaces per block on each side.

A variation that is popular in Missouri, he said, is back-in angle parking: “So, you pass the space, and you back in.”

It results in fewer accidents when vehicles leave the space, Baron said. And when there is a bike lane, drivers can better see an approaching bicyclist.

Baron said: “The mission behind parking should be to ensure access to downtown — it isn’t to make money. It isn’t to consume valuable real estate with parking; that’s not the purpose for coming downtown, to park … the mission of the parking department is to support the land uses and ensure access to those uses whether they’re employees, residents, visitors.”

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Walker will examine the city’s policies for on-street parking, for example, Baron said, and they are aware that some people favor free parking.

Improving ramp parking

Although Downtown ramp parking is plentiful, there are some issues with those, Baron said.

For one, guaranteeing a specific reserved space to a long-term ramp renter means those spaces are not shared and go underused.

The way around that is to give reserve customers merely access to the ramp — but no one particular space.

Walker will look at the city’s Downtown surface lots, whether they are well used and whether they are clearly marked, Baron said. “Looking at the data and getting a good understanding of what’s available and what’s not, that’s the foundation,” he said.

Baron said there are tools a city can use to encourage the availability of on-street parking for visitors, such as free or cheap ramp parking or courtesy tickets for vehicles with out-of-state license plates.

The final designs and recommendations are scheduled to be presented from 7-8:30 p.m. Aug. 1 at the Johnson Building.

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Michael "Mick" Burke covers business and the Village of Sturtevant. He is the proud father of two daughters and owner of a fantastic, although rug-chewing, German shepherd dog.

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