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Study: Downtown Hagerstown parking adequate, even with growth

June 12, 2012|By C.J. LOVELACE | cj.lovelace@herald-mail.com

HAGERSTOWN — A lack of adequate parking in Hagerstown’s City Center is based on perception not reality, and even if downtown redevelopment blossoms over the next two to four years, there would still be enough available parking, according to a consultant.

Rich & Assoc., Inc., a firm based in Southfield, Mich., presented its  downtown parking management plan to the Hagerstown City Council on Tuesday.

The 19-block study concluded that only about half of all available parking is being used during peak times, and no additional parking structures or lots are currently needed.

But Project Manager David W. Burr admitted that the need for additional parking could change if the city proceeds with plans to construct a downtown multiuse sports and events center.

Burr along with company Executive Director Rick Rich summarized the firm’s 100-plus-page report and offered several recommendations that are currently being considered by city officials, city Public Works Manager Eric Deike said.

One of their recommendations is to increase on-street parking rates from 50 cents to 75 cents per hour, while reducing parking deck rates from $1 to 50 cents hour, as a way to encourage long-term parkers — those who stay for more than two hours — to use the decks and not park on the street, which inhibits turnover and available spots for downtown shoppers.

When asked about the idea of rate changes, Deike said the city staff is “still thinking about it.”

The city just levied its first on-street parking rate increase in close to three decades in July 2011, increasing the metered cost from 25 cents to 50 cents per hour, Deike said.

Any proposed rate change would need to be examined more thoroughly and require approval from the five-member council, he said.

“Our staff will talk about it,” Deike said, noting that the study opened his eyes to how the parking system could be an economic tool for the city. “We’ll see how it affects all our rates. There might be a couple other tweaks we have to do, and then we’ll bring it back to council, and they’ll have to decide what they want to do.”

Another key finding of the report is that there is currently a parking deficit in the area south of Washington Street and west of Potomac Street, which contains the Washington County District Court building, Keystone building, Maryland Theatre and some county government offices.

The southwest quadrant was the lone area that shows a lack of parking, a deficit of about 40 spaces, while the northeast, northwest and southeast quadrants show a surplus of 193, 711 and 27 spaces, respectively, according to the report.

As a baseline projection, current parking demand versus supply shows a surplus of about 891 spaces, the report said. If the economy were to improve without significant redevelopment downtown, available spaces would likely drop to about 429.

But if 20 percent of currently unoccupied buildings are put back into use over the next two to four years, the public parking supply would drop to a surplus of just 20 spaces, creating massive deficits in the southeast and southwest quadrants, the consultants said.

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