City of Delaware officials have identified a number of tweaks to the downtown parking system they think can be completed within a year.
Consultants with MKSK on Feb. 6 presented the results of their parking study to Delaware City Council, including dozens of recommendations for improvements aimed at making it easier for people to park downtown. City officials since have worked toward identifying changes that can be implemented over the next 12 months.
According to the city's implementation plan, short-term goals city officials expect to accomplish include:
* adjusting fees at parking meters "to more appropriate hourly rates."
* creating a "demand-based" system with higher fees for "prime" metered spaces.
* reassigning 10-hour spaces and meters farther away from the downtown core to encourage turnover among the busiest spaces.
* removing confusing and redundant signs.
Vice Mayor Kent Shafer said the city also intends to launch a website to keep the public updated on the state of downtown parking. He said the public also will have multiple chances to comment on many of the proposed changes.
"One of our goals is to make sure we're pushing information out as to what we're doing and getting input back," he said.
Mid-term goals, which city officials think can be completed within three years, include moving employee parking outside of the downtown core, considering a valet system for downtown restaurants and phasing in new parking meters that accept credit-card and mobile payments.
Long-term goals, which have no set deadline, include acquiring private parking lots for public use, replacing all existing meters with smart meters or pay stations and finding ways to create more connections between Sandusky Street and rear parking lots.
Delaware City Council heard public feedback on downtown parking issues at its Feb. 27 meeting.
City resident Jane Moore said she thinks adding parking kiosks in the downtown area and raising rates could hurt downtown businesses.
"I would beg you to save Sandusky Street and our other (downtown) areas," she said.
Delaware Mayor Carolyn Riggle said she does not think reintroducing parking meters to Sandusky Street in downtown Delaware is a likely outcome.
"I don't think our plan is to put meters back downtown," she said.
Patrick Bailey, owner of downtown record store Endangered Species, said he agreed with "about 90 percent" of the actions proposed after the study was completed.
Bailey said he thinks a key part of any successful plan will be to inform new business owners where their employees can park, as well as explaining the downtown's parking rules and making sure they are followed.
"They have to be educated before they sign the lease," he said. "We just cannot have more businesses coming downtown that need parking for 15 employees."
Shafer said he expects residents will continue to see action on the city's parking plans in the coming weeks and months.
"Our goal is to get this started and to keep it moving," he said.