Last Wednesday, December 3rd, Dennis Burns with Carl Walker Consultants, presented the consensus decisions of the Parking Study Steering Committee recently formed.  These decisions have been presented to Mayor Tom Henry for consideration.  According to Greg Leatherman, Redevelopment Executive Director, with the exception of the Harrison Square recommendation, there is no need to rush into anything.  It is expected, however, that an ordinance incorporating the suggested changes could be introduced to the City Council early next year.

Three parking polls toward the end of this post, ask your opinions on parking in downtown Fort Wayne.

Harrison Square was the catalyst for this study. Parkview Field, new home of the Fort Wayne TinCaps Minor League Class A Baseball team opens April 16th, 2009. The Steering Committee agreed that a definite plan for parking for Harrison Square, and more specifically Parkview Field, must be the first and most important priority to be completed. It mandated this to be in place by February 15th 2008. The committee added that this is regardless of progress on other issues identified in the study. The committee, however, did not go on to suggest how to arrive at a definite plan for Harrison Square parking or even suggestions as to where to start or what should be considered and included.

Harrison Square: Parking Analysis Availability

Right or wrong, one of the biggest complaints/concerns one hears from citizens in regards to the Harrison Square project is the limited parking and impact on traffic this will have. Public perception is that there is a downtown parking problem. The above image is from a map provided to Minor League Baseball that shows a vast number of parking spaces in the downtown core. Frankly, there is abundant parking downtown – just not within easy reach of the ballpark.

The new parking deck being completed at the northwestern corner of Harrison Street and Douglas Avenue will house approximately 900 parking spaces. The Coliseum has stated their people to car ratio parking for Wizards games ran 3 to 1, 3 people per car on average. That is approximately 2,700 people that have the potential to be parked in the parking deck, not subtracting dedicated spaces for the hotel and TinCaps VIP parking. Attendance at ball games will probably run at the least, 2.5 times that amount which could translate into another 1,000 to 1,500 cars to park somewhere.

The City has missed a golden opportunity with this study. The study should not have centered around what is the best system for organizing downtown parking, but rather how to change the public’s perception of the “problem”. Organizational parking issues are secondary to this major hurdle facing the City and Harrison Square’s success.

Even traffic dispersal after an event at the ballpark should have had a front seat. Looking at the downtown grid, one would think dispersal wouldn’t be a problem. But, and I wrote about this last March, getting traffic out of the parking deck in its present location will probably be a problem. Also, in an interview with then Deputy Mayor Mark Becker, we talked about this public perception of lack of downtown parking.  In fact, Dennis stated that the last thing we want to happen is someone to be waiting in the parking deck on traffic to clear out so they can leave. This was always a problem at the Coliseum.

Add to this, possible simultaneous events at various venues closely grouped together (i.e. Grand Wayne Center, Embassy Theatre, Botanical Conservatory, etc…) and the truth of the matter is the City could be in for some interesting times. Models for this type of testing should have been considered when selecting the criteria for the study.

Dennis did a great job of leading the study and organizing the results – hats off to him. However, the study was too narrowly defined by the City, and that’s not the fault of the consultant.

One of the questions asked by Tom Smith regarded who would have the responsibility and final say in setting parking rates and fines under a Parking Authority. Dennis answered that it would be determined when setting up the Parking Authority, but could remain, as it is now, with the City Council. He did add that he felt it inefficient for a Parking Authority to have to go before the City Council every time a rate/fine increase would be needed. A rate/fine increase has not happened for several years in Fort Wayne. He then went on to state:

Does anybody see any obstacles? I mean to me, I just see this as a simple matter of being more efficient and effective in the management of our parking resources, doing a little better job of integrating and aligning all of the different departments and services so that we really manage one system. To me, that’s what this really is all about and that’s the ultimate goal. Anybody see any reason why that should be very controversial?

No one responded. City Councilman Tom Smith then added that he was much more interested in what public input there is before any action is taken by the City Council. Dennis responded:

And I guess that’s why I asked the question. Because, to me, this is probably the least controversial thing regarding parking that you could ever want to do – it’s just basically saying, we want to provide, we look around the country at what the best practices in parking management municipalities are and this is one of the things that makes a lot of sense. It’s just really reacting to the fact that we don’t have a broken system, we just have a fairly common horizontally fragmented system…

And I would respond: “Dennis, welcome to Fort Wayne!”

Watch the entire presentation via a YouTube playlist:

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Individual clips from the parking study presentation:
12/03/2008 PS-01: Parking Study Introduction
12/03/2008 PS-02: Parking Study Steering Committee
12/03/2008 PS-03: Parking Study Recommended Option A
12/03/2008 PS-04: Parking Study Recommended Option B
12/03/2008 PS-05: Parking Study Recommended Option C
12/03/2008 PS-06: Parking Study Key Elements
12/03/2008 PS-07: Parking Study Implementation Action Plan
12/03/2008 PS-08: Parking Study Summary and Questions
12/03/2008 PS-09: Parking Study Questions
12/03/2008 PS-10: Parking Study Questions
12/03/2008 PS-11: Parking Study Questions
12/03/2008 PS-12: Parking Study Questions
12/03/2008 PS-13: Parking Study Question and Conclusion

Other resources:
mp3 of the presentation
pdf of the presentation slides

4 COMMENTS

  1. I can’t pick a valid answer for “What’s your perception of parking in downtown Fort Wayne?”

    But my perception is negative because I think there’s already too much, not because I think there’s too little.

  2. Tom Smith has a good point there; let the Common Council deal with the charges/fines for downtown parking. It is the only way the public will have any accountability. There is a reason Fort Wayne demands such “inefficiencies” and that has to do with ongoing difficulty in getting answers to questions about funding.

  3. Leaving it in the hands of City Council also makes sure rate/fine increases are justified and warranted before being implemented. In this way,the body requesting the increase must build a case that justifies the increase, rather than doing it at will. Besides, when was the last time there were any increase to fees? It’s been several years at best.

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