Monday, January 25, 2010

Managing Parking Downtown

Tonight the City Council took one of the final steps toward installing a system of paid parking on certain blocks downtown. By a vote of 5-2 (with Councilmembers Monahan and Andrews dissenting, as they usually do on this issue), the Council voted to purchase 62 pay stations that will be installed on Main Street, California Street, and a few other sidestreets downtown where almost all parking spaces are in use almost all the time.

Even though this was mostly a procedural items (we approved the concept of paid parking almost three years ago), it got a lot of publicity around town today because the Star chose to highlight it in an advance story titled "Ventura Poised To Charge For Downtown Parking Spaces". The online responses were not universally negative -- many people praised the idea -- but the range of reasons why people thought paid parking is a bad idea was pretty amusing. One person said that paid parking can't be sustained because downtown is doing so poorly; another person said that paid parking shouldn't be instituted because downtown is doing so well.

There's no question that paying for parking anywhere in Ventura is a big adjustment from what we're accustomed to, so it's understandable that a lot of people don't like the idea. But I think it's important to put the paid parking downtown in context. We're not charging for parking everywhere. In fact, the parking garage and all the public parking lots and the vast majority of onstreet parking spaces will be completely free of charge. We're charging at certain very high-usage downtown locations as part of a larger system of managing parking. In addition to paid parking, we're also using time limits on parking as well as residential permit parking as a way to manage the entire system. (See map.) This also requires better management of parking lots -- such as the one at Foster Library, which will be undergoing some changes.

Here's the idea: Some onstreet spaces downtown are in use 95-100% of the time -- especially along Main Street -- and so some people who come along looking for a space never find one. Meanwhile, other areas downtown are not anywhere near full. By creating a system of paid parking, time limits, and residential permit parking, we can free up spaces along Main Street and elsewhere for people who are only going to be there a short time (or are willing to pay money to park there), while encouraging other folks to park in the lots and garages, which are free.

The number of spaces that will have paid parking is small. There are about 7,000 parking spaces downtown, including about 4,000 public spaces. Of those, about 2,000 are in the garage and in lots and about 2,000 are on the street. The paid parking will apply to 431 spaces -- 280 on Main Street and the rest on the side streets. (I had previously said 280 altogether, but I was wrong.) If you choose to park in a paid space, you can pay with a credit card if you want and the system automatically tracks which stall your car is in, so you don't have to return to your car to put a piece of paper on the dashboard, as you do at the beach. If you find youself way down at the other end of the street and you're running out of time, just go to the nearest pay station and add more money.

One of the big fears is that people won't want to pay the parking fee, so they won't park in the spaces, and businesses downtown will suffer. But the paid parking system we're buying allows us to adjust the parking fee to meet the market demand. Our goal is to have, on average, 85% of the parking spaces used, with 15% vacant. (This is, of course, slightly lower than the situation now.) If we institute paid parking at $1 an hour (which is probably where we'll start) and use goes down to only 50% or 60%, then it's easy -- because it's a computerized system -- to lower the price until the usage goes up. If usage is too high -- 95-100%, which means no spaces are available -- then we can raise the price. In other words, we can respond to the market by changing the price, just as a private business would.

Although this kind of system is new to Ventura, it's pretty common throughout Southern California these days. You may have seen this kind of system in Glendale; I've used it in downtown Riverside. It definitely takes some getting used to -- no doubt about it. But once it is in place, we should be able to manage parking much better than now; and you'll have the choice of paying to park in an extremely convenient location or walking a little bit to park for free.

The money that's generated from the parking system will also help downtown. The money will go into a fund for downtown projects -- anything from picking up trash to steamcleaning sidewalks or even to help pay for an additional parking garage. Throughout Southern California, these parking revenues have helped make downtowns more attractive, not less.

Of course, if we charge for parking on the street in high-volume locations, then we have to manage offstreet parking better as well. So, for example, at Foster Library, we are working with the library agency to free up more parking spaces for library patrons. By getting some library employees to park all day in the upper lot, we're going to increase the number of spaces for patrons in the lot behind the library from 11 to 22, and the number of spaces for persons with disabilities from 2 to 4.


  1. How long will it take to pay off the approx $850,000 to purchase the equipment?

  2. An interesting question to ask people who object to paid parking as part of the overall parking management plan is: How, exactly, do you think the construction, maintenance, and management of the "free" parking spaces you use is paid for?

    Barbara Evans

  3. Please continue to emphasize that paid parking is only one facet of the complete parking management plan.

  4. I don't understand how the existence of a "problem" with our current parking situation was identified. It appears that the streets where paid parking will be instituted presently have time limits. How are employees of downtown businesses hogging all the spots if they have to repark every 90 minutes or less?

    I also want to know why, if the "problem" is emplyees parking too long downtown, the hours for paid parking extend past normal business hours, all the way until 10:00 PM.

    Frankly it sounds like a revenue enhancement strategy, not a parking strategy.

  5. The idea of paid parking in a few selected spots is fine, but I fear there will be a temptation to eventually expand the number of paid spots, or even convert the parking structure into paid parking. I believe that free parking is a big plus in drawing people to downtown, expansion of paid parking could be a potential deterent.

  6. You lost my vote.With the murders that happened in the last year it's good to see you're spending our goverment man hours on what's important ...parking?

  7. As a disabled person, my "blue plackard" allows me to park for free onthe street at parking meters. I'm assuming this is considered parking meters and will allow me the same priviledge?

  8. I know one thing for sure....I am not paying an extra $1 to run into Jersey Mike's at lunch time for 5 mintues to pick up a $6 sandwich. I'll have to get my lunch somewhere else than downtown when the pay parking starts.

  9. Am I going to have to pay every time I come get my mail at the post office on Santa Clara now? Don't my taxes already pay for parking garages, sidewalk cleaning? Will the volunteer crew that actually does the clean-up of trash downtown be dismantled? Did you ever consider expanding public transportation, like maybe adding some more busses from that big ugly train coming out of the ground over in urban blightsville? I thought we were trying to be a green city. How about adding some more bike racks downtown, because many won't be driving there any more?

  10. Bad idea. Not surprising though coming from the current council of misinformed and out-of-touch cronies. This is just one more issue the council shoves down the throats of Ventura residence when we are clearly opposed.

  11. Mr Fulton,

    I reside in the 100 block of Poli St. I bank at Rabobank on the corner of Main & Palm. Does this new parking system mean I must pay a fee to use my ATM machine on my way to work? Will I have to pay a fee to obtain a resident permit to park on the street at my own address?

  12. Wow, grand plan Mr. Fulton!

    Oh, but what is the enforcement plan? I've repeatedly seen a failure in proper enforcement of the current situation. Placing a meter isn't going to fix that problem, or are these really special meters that place a ticket on the car for you? You've done a good job of addressing many of people comments, but none of the basic questions.

    Why are you voting to spend all this money NOW? Why when the money could be spent on exsisting programs that are failing for lack of funds? Perhaps a published list of the councils priorities would make people happier about it.

    Don't worry you didn't loose my vote. Oh that's right I'm not even a California resident so you never had it. I simply have to suck it up during my stay here and listen to senslessness. This is yet another reason why Southern California is the laughingstock of the nation.

    Cheerio and please, stop the oxygen thieves.

  13. Not to mention, ugly paystations on the sidewalks! Bill, you have any photos of what these will look like in our quaint downtown?

  14. A couple of answers:

    -- I will dig up a picture of the pay stations and post them.

    -- The same rules as now apply if you have a blue placard.

    -- There will probably be a nominal fee (I don't know how much, probably $10-20) for the residential parking permits.

  15. Will there be paid parking on nights where main-street is currently barren? Days like Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday?

    These are the days when parking is readily available and nobody is forced to walk through unlit areas etc. If the ritual of parking becomes too much of an expensive hassle I fear it will hurt business.

    I think it's just a hassle.

  16. I am concerned about residential parking permits. Why must residents get permits to park in front of their own homes? Will there be a shortage of free parking ? caused by too much pay parking?
    I hope there will be no parking meters or stations in front of homes because that means the parking in front of homes could be taken from a resident who has a permit. Also if you can only park in front of your house or on your street if you have a permit.... then more complications hassle life style changes because visitors (parents or grown children family friends) will Not be able to park on street next to who ever they are visiting because they do not have a permit- pass out guest permits etc. This happens in San Francisco where there is a different situation of not enough parking of any type for all residents. So San Fran has different problems from Ventura...they are trying to replace need for cars... but only half way there and people suffer with tickets and can not have visitors... My daughter lives in San Francisco, walks to work and is trying to keep a car... visitors have been prevented from stopping by, other unhappy stories. So I hope Ventura parking never gets to shortage stage like San Francisco. (old fashioned meters and over all shortage of spaces in Oakland are also hassle hell no choice complication of life and student versus many resident parking-shortage again - is a problem in Santa Cruz leading to hassle lower quality of life not to mention unavoidable increased cost of living. So I am concerned when residents are required to have permits...Shortage hassle problem are developing.

  17. I think the answers to the questions above are contained in the map. The red areas wlil have pay stations. The gray areas will have time-limited parking (generally 2- to 4-hour parking during the day). The green areas will have residential permits.

  18. I think now is the very best time to start a "Boycott Downtown" campaign! I'm sure there's more Ventura businesses and residents against this sidewalk littering idea than what the new urbanists want us to believe. A few tea party styled meetings with posters in the business windows that support the cause. A couple of radio spots on Locals Only, letter writing to the newspapers, and our poster boy picture of "Cool Hand Luke" Paul Newman cutting the heads off of parking meters would get the exposure we deserve and show some of these enlightened elitists to pack up and move back to NEW YORK, parking meter heaven! :=)

  19. Residential parking permits should be free.
    Even if the entire parking meter issue is revenue
    driven (which, of course, it is).... parking meters in the yellow areas are still optional,
    (and I would agree that an option has been provided) while those who wish to park in front of their own home having to purchase the right to do so, because of their proximity to down town should be challenged in court.

  20. Sounds like the city can't manage its finances. One would think that cleaning and maintenance would be paid for out of general revenue taxes...LIKE THEY SHOULD BE. I don't know why but I am always surprised at how poorly run cities are in mostly Democratic states.

  21. Did you ever consider that looting the public through this parking meter racket might indeed destroy local businesses? You have brilliant timing. While California businesses are getting their ass kicked the City Council and their Mayor have devised a way of causing more grief. There is absolutely no justification for putting parking meters downtown. Rather than promote business growth this action is going to cause the city and it's voters untimely aggravation in an already anti incumbent environment.

    I hope that someone pulls a "Cool Hand Luke" moment on those damn meters.

    -Mark Freie

  22. Just a few months ago I was noting how Downtown Ventura was a busy, popular success with tourists and locals alike. Now it looks ridiculous where those circular (and annoying) parking signs are the main thing you notice. Why do you want to devastate downtown Ventura after all those years of building it up as a tourist destination? People won't pay to park on Main Street if there are no stores and restaurants to go to because they've all closed down. If you want to do "progressive" social engineering, move to Santa Cruz or San Francisco. I look forward to the day the signs are removed and your costly and ruinous experiment ends.

  23. I wish more mayors had the courage to take these necessary steps in areas where the demand for free parking is exceeding supply. I bet all these folks who won't support local businesses because they don't want to spend a dollar are probably bad tippers anyway! Walk a block, and stop complaining.

  24. Good about this article and the contents are really nice and good to know about this post. and thanks for sharing here with us .
    And we do also doing parking management system.

  25. I really appreciate the final steps toward installing a system of paid parking on certain blocks downtown. This will be really helpful.

    Parking lot management


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