Economic Development and Technology

Parking panel will identify next steps in mobility plan

These will include schedules for policies, action items, annual items, long-term goals.

March 4, 2016
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Mobility policies and goals are expected to be on the table again this week during the Grand Rapids Parking Commission meeting.

While the Mobile GR Priority Plan was formally adopted by the Parking Commission last month, a number of items listed among its policies and goals are expected to be on the agenda for discussion during the March 10 meeting.

The Mobile GR Priority Plan was developed by the Parking Services staff with input from Nelson\Nygaard Consulting Associates, which has been contracted by the city of Grand Rapids to assess and develop recommendations for the Grand Rapids Vital Streets plan.

The priority plan is intended to meet current and future needs of parking customers in downtown Grand Rapids and is divided into four main categories: plan policies, action items for 2016, annual items, and actionable goals for 2017 and beyond.

Josh Naramore, Mobile GR and parking manager for Grand Rapids, said he has been meeting with parking and city commissioners since the February meeting in a one-on-one capacity to hear their input.

“Looking at (the Mobile GR Priority Plan), I actually think there is a lot we can do sooner rather than later, but there is also a need, I think, to temper some expectations on some of these,” said Naramore. “Based on previous experiences, we are going to need to a longer-term approach.”

The Mobile GR Priority Plan includes six policy items, such as: developing rate-setting methodology for a City Commission presentation; 27 actionable goals for 2016 such as developing transit pass strategies and working with The Rapid to enhance a carpooling program; three annual action items, including evaluating the impact of mobility and transportation demand management investments; and 14 action items for 2017 and beyond.

Naramore suggested a great example of a 2016 action item that may require a longer-term approach is expanding parking supply. The plan indicates a critical achievement would be having prepared recommendations for a presentation to the Parking Commission and City Commission by 2017.

“We are always kind of looking and talking and discussing that, but there is no concrete example, and that is also a really huge capital cost and endeavor,” said Naramore. “Those are sort of longer-term conversations, where we are actively looking for how we can manage supply and manage demand.”

On the other hand, Naramore indicated there are a number of policies and items that can be addressed sooner, such as: transportation demand management ordinances; remote parking strategies; mobility planning in neighborhoods; a parking management toolbox for neighborhoods; exploring credit card options for on-street parking; and parking rates.

“We are definitely going to be having an active conversation at the March meeting about parking rates and the methodology, and looking for some buy-in and action from the Parking Commission for the City Commission probably a little bit later in the spring,” said Naramore.

Another possible item that may be addressed sooner is looking at ways to collect data for the off-street and on-street system. The Parking Services department has begun working with Smarking, a San Francisco-based software technology firm, to use data analytics and real-time occupancy patterns to manage parking services. While using the data analytics for off-street parking is “pretty 21st century,” the department hasn’t necessarily been able to advance the assessment for the on-street system yet, according to Naramore.

“I think, particularly for business communities, it is something we are really going to try to do a lot more with because I think a lot of businesses have a lot of interest, not only in the off-street but also in the on-street, because those spaces are usually in front of their businesses,” said Naramore.

To Naramore, the concept of a “mobile” Grand Rapids means building on the “good bones” the city has in place, continuing to provide access for employees and businesses to downtown, and expanding to provide more options for residents and employees.

“People will still need to largely drive in the near term because we don’t have a super robust transit system, currently. We are continually developing that,” said Naramore.

“Really, for how a downtown looks and sort of the other places I have lived and worked in, there are just a lot of options for people who live in the city, as well as people who work in the city and commute from other places.

“There are a lot of different options for people to make an informed decision about what works best for them, and I think that is probably the biggest thing. We are not telling anyone what to do; we are just trying to provide as many options and educate people on the costs of things,” added Naramore.

As part of the upcoming March meeting, Naramore said Parking Services and the parking commissioners will look at a work program calendar he anticipates developing to identify the best priority plan elements to begin with in the short-term, six-months from now, and in about a year.

During the annual budgeting process later in the fall, he also anticipates updating the work program based on forecasts, various projects and required maintenance services.

“I want to make sure we are updating the work program so that if there is stuff we need to have in there that is not budgeted for, that we are considering that, as well,” said Naramore.

As Naramore transitions into his second month in his new role as the Mobile GR manager, he said the priority plan has been really helpful.

“It is really great when all of that work has already been done and gotten a lot of community feedback on things,” said Naramore. “We can just pick up on some of the items that have been highlighted and try to get them implemented as soon as possible.”

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