Over the last 6 months, with participation from a number of stakeholders, including the Saint Paul Area Chamber of Commerce, Nelson/Nygaard analyzed nearly every facet of parking in downtown—from supply and demand to parking utilization. As a result of this analysis, Nelson/Nygaard prepared what is referred to as the Downtown Parking Management Strategy, a broad framework of information and strategies to better manage and improve parking as part of downtown’s multimodal transportation system.
Last week, the city made the Downtown Parking Management Strategy available for public review. Below is a summary:
To better understand the existing state of parking in downtown, Nelson/Nygaard conducted an inventory and utilization study. There are three important components of the study: (1) an analysis of existing parking inventory, (2) the extent to which that inventory is utilized, and (3) how the inventory is managed.
In terms of parking inventory, key findings of the study include:
- There are 26,638 on and off-street parking spaces in downtown;
- Of all parking spaces in downtown, 94 percent are off-street (26,994); and
- There 1,644 on-street parking spaces in downtown with varying rates and time limits.
In terms of parking utilization, the study found that:
- Weekday: Collectively, both on and off-street parking is never more than 73 percent occupied during peak times between Monday and Friday. Specifically, parking is roughly 73 percent occupied during the morning, 73 percent during midday, and 43 percent during the evening; and
- Weekend: Collectively, both on and off-street parking is never more than 49 percent occupied during peak times on the weekend. Specifically, parking is roughly 45 percent occupied during the morning, 29 percent during midday, and 49 percent during the evening.
When interpreting this data, it is critically important to note that an unoccupied space does not necessarily mean an available space as many spaces are restricted by private parking contracts. It should also be kept in mind that utilization data was collected by surveying private parking operators (with a 26 percent response rate to the survey), conducting field visits (once during the week and once during the weekend, at three separate times each day), and reviewing traffic cameras.
Finally, the study evaluated the existing management and governance structure of the parking system in downtown. The study found that the responsibility for managing parking is split among departments within the city of Saint Paul. For example, policymaking, budgeting, and enforcement are managed by different departments. According to the consultants, this makes coordination difficult.
Based on an analysis of parking demand and supply, utilization data, and anticipated future growth of downtown, Nelson/Nygaard developed a series of parking strategies. The strategies are grouped into the following 7 categories:
- Information and technology: Use information and technology to create smart policies and effectively manage parking;
- City parking management: Coordinate and integrate city parking management with overall economic development and transportation goals;
- On-street parking: Manage on-street parking using a market-based approach to better utilize supply;
- Off-street parking: Create off-street parking policies in the context of a multimodal system;
- Access and transportation demand management: Integrate access and transportation demand management to become a downtown with attractive travel options;
- Placemaking: Invest in placemaking to support downtown growth; and
- Parking-related zoning code: Update the parking-related zoning code to support responsible economic development.
For each category, the study provides a series of detailed recommendations on how to best accomplish a particular strategy. Click here to review the specific recommendations offered by Nelson/Nygaard.
Over the next several months, the city will review the consultant’s findings to assess, which, if any, of the strategies will help it achieve its economic and housing development goals for downtown over the next decade. As the city considers implementation of any of the strategies, it will engage residents and stakeholders. The Chamber has not taken a position on the recommendations offered by Nelson/Nygaard,
For more information on the city’s efforts, click here.
This article was written by Michael J. Belaen. Michael serves as the Saint Paul Area Chamber of Commerce’s (SPACC) director of public affairs and legal counsel.