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Consultants suggest better signage, marketing of parking areas in Hagerstown's City Center

Goal of study is to identify current usage, problem areas and what would happen if usage increases

February 23, 2012|By C.J. LOVELACE | cj.lovelace@herald-mail.com

Improved signage and better marketing of parking areas in Hagerstown’s City Center were two suggestions offered Thursday night by a consulting firm conducting a study to help the city develop a master plan for downtown parking.

About a dozen elected officials, business owners and residents attended a public information meeting at City Hall to get their first look at initial data collected by Rich & Associates, a Michigan-based firm hired by the city to help develop a downtown parking plan with an eye toward the future.

The goal of the $33,464 study is to identify current usage, problem areas and what would happen to the parking situation if the economy improves and usage increases. The majority of money for the study will come from the city’s parking fund, a city official said.

The final study, which is expected to be completed by May, will provide the mayor and Hagerstown City Council with suggestions to address downtown infrastructure needs should the economy turn around and businesses begin coming back, city Public Works Manage Eric Deike said.

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“I think we’re going in the right direction,” Deike said. “We’ve had this data for quite some time. What we needed the independent consultant to do was tell us what it means.”

Preliminary data showed that 18 percent of vehicles are overstaying time limits in metered parking, creating the perception of insufficient parking, but only about 50 percent of spaces are actually occupied during peak times. Some vehicles were found parked in the same spots all day.

The consultant said 5 percent of vehicles overstaying time limits is an acceptable rate.

“(Business owners) think it’s employees that are taking those spaces, and I know ... it’s the business owners themselves in some cases,” Deike said. “You want your customers to be able to park in front of your store, and if you’re occupying the space, you’re defeating your own purpose.”

Some of the preliminary data was provided by the city, including an online survey conducted in January, while the remainder was collected by the consulting firm.

On-street metered parking on Franklin, Washington and Potomac streets were identified as the most congested areas, as well as the hardest to find spots during peak time, which is about 11 a.m., David W. Burr of Rich & Associates said in his presentation.

Deike said the consultant’s report will help educate downtown users about the best parking practices and help city officials adequately prepare for anticipated growth.

Peter Perini of Hagerstown, who frequents the downtown area, said the initial findings show that city officials are getting serious about revitalizing the downtown area.

“The findings showed that there is enough parking today, but that’s because we don’t have a lot going on in downtown Hagerstown,” Perini said. “But I think a combination of a better economy and a good concentrated effort ... will really start to bring businesses downtown.”

Parking study at a glance
A preliminary study of parking in the City Center of Hagerstown found:

  • The amount of publicly-provided parking is slightly less than the best-practice ratio of 50 percent.
  • At peak time, only about 50 percent of parking downtown is occupied for both publicly-provided and privately-controlled parking.
  • 18 percent of vehicles are overstaying on-street time limits, creating the perception of insufficient parking.
  • Many private spaces with access only from alleys are not easily located or necessarily desired by patrons.
  • A surplus of privately-controlled spaces is generally not available to other users.
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