Economic Development, Government, and Travel & Tourism

Parking commission considers new downtown strategy

April 12, 2016
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The Grand Rapids Parking Commission may finally be taking business owners’ concerns about a lack of parking downtown seriously.

The city of Grand Rapids said the commission is set to consider a new demand-based parking management strategy on Thursday that would improve convenience and expand choices for parking customers.

The new strategy is said to “even out parking demands” and “better manage the system.”

“The demand for parking in downtown has grown with more prevalent residential units, increased employment and a booming event schedule,” said Josh Naramore, manager, Mobile GR and Parking, city of Grand Rapids.

At the meeting, parking commissioners will consider several changes to how parking is managed across the system for fiscal year 2017: improvements to mobility options, including expanding the DASH schedule and transit options; expanding the parking supply; and on- and off-street parking rate changes.

Naramore said these revisions would help spread customers across the downtown parking system and allow everyone to access parking that “works for them.”

He also noted the revisions remain in line with the GR Forward Plan, which he said set a “clear direction” on parking management for the city.

“Combining expanded mobility options like improvements to DASH service with rate changes across the parking system are the city’s first steps to implementing the recommendations from that plan,” Naramore said.

DASH service operation hours would expand to operate from 6:30 a.m.-10 p.m. during the week, with a frequency of seven- to eight-minute service all day.

City staff is also working with Downtown Grand Rapids Inc. and The Rapid on a pilot project to make Silver Line service north of Wealthy Street and throughout downtown free all day.

If approved, enhanced DASH service, the Silver Line pilot and rate changes will begin on Sept. 1.

Reducing parking demand is still a primary goal for the city, according to Eric DeLong, deputy city manager.

He said the city will continue to look at ways to reduce parking demand downtown as pressure continues to grow to replace existing surface lots with development projects like the newly announced Loeks Theatres and 616 Development project on the Area 4 and 5 lots behind Van Andel Arena.

“Current off-street parking facilities are upwards of 90 percent at capacity,” DeLong said. “Monthly employee, special event and residential parking demands continue to grow.”

He said one way to reduce demand is to work with employers on parking “cash-out programs” and pursuing alternative transportation options, including bike and car sharing.

At the same time, DeLong said the city is focused on “strategic increases” in parking supply as part of the transition plan.

“Balance is essential and there will need to be both extra parking constructed and expanded mobility options to replace these surface lots and to accommodate increased demand,” DeLong said.

The goal, according to the city, is to transform the downtown parking system as a “park-once district,” where customers who choose to drive will only need to park one time for the entire day.

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