Hamilton Herald Masthead


Front Page - Friday, February 9, 2018

Downtown parking study completed

Downtown Chattanooga has more than 43,000 parking spaces, but less than one-third of those spaces are publicly available.

This is one of the many findings from a year-long, $250,0000 comprehensive parking study led by the Chattanooga Area Regional Transportation Authority, the Chattanooga Parking Authority and River City Company, in partnership with the Lyndhurst and Benwood Foundations, the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, Siskin Hospital, Erlanger Health System and the City of Chattanooga.

Commissioned to understand challenges and opportunities related to parking as the city’s urban core continues to grow and develop, the study captured the current state of parking downtown and provides strategic recommendations for addressing and balancing current parking needs while also considering future development.

The study, which counted both on- and off-street spaces with public and private access, measured how much these spaces were used on a typical weekday and Saturday to understand normal patterns of parking activity.

This allowed the study team to understand gaps in parking potential.

“With 43,000 spaces over an area covering five square miles, this study constituted a major data collection and analysis effort,” says Joel Mann, principal at Stantec Consulting Services and lead consultant on the parking study.

“It’s the first time downtown will have a comprehensive inventory of all on- and off-street spaces, including details such as loading zone locations and parking lots that only serve a dedicated business or user.

“Assembling this much data gives Chattanooga’s agencies and partner organizations a tool for decision-making.”

In general, the study observed that overall parking supply in Downtown Chattanooga is adequate.

However, that supply is not optimally utilized, which is evident when less than one-third of those 43,000 parking spaces are available to the general public. Furthermore, supply is much less heavily used on weekends.

This suggests that major additions to parking supply might have limited utility.

Nonetheless, in select areas such as the heath and education district, UTC campus area and MLK district, supply is constrained.

From this, the framework for recommendations based on the findings from space counts, usage data and projections on future growth recommend a “manage first, then build with strategy” approach.

First, a key finding from the study found that available parking is almost always nearby a driver’s desired destination, at any given time or location in the study area.

This highlights the need for those owners of parking to both understand the demand for his or her parking facility and work to create shared parking opportunities.

An example of a shared parking opportunity would be if a company has a parking lot that’s reserved for employees only and is only being used by employees during the normal work day opening up the parking lot to the public in the evenings and on weekends.

Second, the study recommended that price is the most effective determinant of a user’s willingness to stay in a location. This has led to several recommendations concerning pricing and time limits depending on the area and its observed use.

Third, parking should be treated as part of urban mobility. Sharing arrangements might extend beyond a comfortable walking reach for many customers; to create better sharing opportunities, there’s a need to explore stronger mobility connections such as transit, bicycling and improvements to the walking environment.

Last, strategies for new parking should include partnerships to construct facilities that not only serve multiple users but also future development. One example the study explored is a shared parking garage in the health and education district that would serve both Erlanger and Siskin Hospitals, but also potentially UTC and the Hamilton County Health Department.

“Downtown Chattanooga, like many urban areas, has challenges when it comes to parking,” says Kim White, president and CEO of River City Company. “For us, it’s making more of the parking that currently exists in downtown available to more people. And as our city continues to grow and change, we aim to work with partners to strategically add more parking where necessary, make parking more accessible and foster a downtown where people are comfortable parking and then utilizing the electric shuttle, bike share and walking to move around.”

To move this report from study to action, River City Company, along with CARTA and CPA, has an implementation team of downtown stakeholders and partners working to execute recommendations from the study.

Source: River City Company