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» Downtown parking: Study says it works

HASSO HERING

A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

Downtown parking: Study says it works

Written November 9th, 2019 by Hasso Hering

Parking Enforcement Officer Robert Zuniga on patrol downtown on June 14, 2019.

Anybody hoping that Albany’s parking consultant would recommend building a downtown parking structure will be disappointed. Rick Williams, the consultant, recommends only “moderate upgrades” in the parking sytem because he found it to be working well.

The city, through the Albany Revitalization Area, hired Rick Williams Consulting in January for no more than $42,803 to study downtown parking and make recommendations. Williams has produced a draft of his report, and the advisory board of the Central Albany Revitalization Area, the downtown urban renewal district, set aside half an hour next Wednesday to discuss it.

In April and May, Williams and his data gatherers collected information on the use of both on- and off-street parking stalls, including privately owned lots, on weekdays and Saturdays.

“At present,” he concludes in his draft, “the city’sparking system is operating at a low level of use, in both the on- and off-street systems. As such, the data would suggest that there are plenty of opportunities for users to park within close proximity to any destination in the downtown.”

He adds: “The low level of use suggests that major changes to the system are not urgent as conflicts between users are likely minimal. Further supporting this assumption is data that shows high compliance by users of timed parking stalls.”

Williams has seven recommendations for what he calls “moderate upgrades.” These include updating the technology used by the ParkWise program of the Albany Downtown Association, which contracts with the city for parking enforcement downtown.

He recommends that the city promote “alternative modes and encourage reductions in drive-alone employee trips.” If more downtown employees commuted by bike, for example, more parking stalls would be available for customers.

The findings should be no surprise to city officials. Some time ago, informal surveys also showed that contrary to public perception, downtown parking was not a big problem. That’s a conclusion that this study confirms. (hh)



38 responses to “Downtown parking: Study says it works”

  1. Rolland says:

    The first two things money should be spent on are: (1) make the length of the parking spots more consistent with each other. Currently when parking our Yukon there are some spots we barely fit in, others we could park 1.5 times our length. (2) paint on the curb where the spots start and stop so the driver has a feel if he is legally parked. Currently there are a few that have them but most don’t.

    Doing both will cost a little money but not as much as the pretty lights in the center of a few streets did.

  2. J. Jacobson says:

    What is the cost differential between the so-called “informal surveys” done “some time ago,” versus the “not more than $42-thousand dollar” study which seems to agree with the informal surveys?

  3. Barb Schoonover says:

    Please let us know where this consultant was hired from. Is he actually a resident of Albany. If he isn’t then he really has no idea what works and does not work for our area.

    • Ray Kopczynski says:

      http://www.rickwilliamsconsulting.com/

      It is because they are professionals who do this for a living (and are out of town), they can give an unbiased opinion after doing their work.

      There has not been a study yet (that I am aware of) that shows there is a parking problem downtown. I’ve lived here since 1995 and have stated multiple times there is NO parking problem!

    • J. Jacobson says:

      There are several highly influential residents who agree with you, MS Schoonover…including the Mayor. What would be equally interesting is to how the mayor voted on the $42-thousand dollar parking study.

      The mayor made her thoughts clearly on these types of issues in a very public forum. See for yourself.

      https://youtu.be/Ke4Dn6KlXCU

  4. Paul Pritchard says:

    Some local friends find the parking enforcer too aggressive. Is it possible to post reminders instead of high priced “tickets” on out of state visitors at the Carousel for instance? Signing there is woefully inadequate. Also, are the “tickets” from ALBANY downtown association officer enforceable? Not in a court of law?

  5. schmuck283 says:

    So, will it continue working if all the vacant storefronts are filled with viable businesses?

  6. Anon says:

    I continue to be amazed at how much taxpayer money the city of Albany throws away in pursuit of a “perfect” downtown. It’s as if they have no idea how hard people work to make the money that they, the city is wasting. Sad deal.

  7. Tom says:

    First off, Albany having a Parking Enforcement Officer is ridiculous. From a fundamental and fiscal standpoint, ludicrous. And secondly, who were those who approved a parking study for the city of Albany?…….this is Albany people. Finally, does the enforcement and collection of fees pay for said enforcement in full? What is the total enforceable parking area….a dozen or so square blocks maybe. Albany plays to big for their britches. Total and absolute waste of taxpayers funds and this, this is a prime example of how this city operates. When the city grows to 100,000, then perhaps some should talk about parking enforcement.

    • Rachel La Brasseur says:

      Right? I almost completely agree with this! But don’t forget, we the people of Albany allow this to happen year after year by not voting, not running for office or empower other alternatives to our mayor ( I’m sorry to say it) of way too long Ms. Kanopa!

      • J. Jacobson says:

        MS La Brasseur is spot-on. The natural “conservative” instinct is to maintain the status quo. The unknown is too frightening. Unfortunately, this leads to stagnation and to an improper understanding by elected officials as to their significance. Just look at this to see how being in office too long can lead to faulty thought processes:

        https://youtu.be/Ke4Dn6KlXCU

      • Ray Kopczynski says:

        Knowing what the limitations are for the position of mayor set out in the city charter ( https://www.cityofalbany.net/city-council/charter-link ), I;m intrigued as to exactly what intrinsic differences you would have a candidate offer to the community that would be of material difference to the position?

        And – You’re not going to throw your name in the hat because…?

        • Elizabeth Bailey says:

          Your last response was spot on! My husband, a reasonable man, was a city commissioner for the City of Oregon City. It is quite enlightening to actually be in a position of making choices for city services to be funded, how much money the city collects in revenue, and the number of demands in the city budget for the finite amount of revenue the city has to work with. Absolutely, run for office! Or, volunteer for a board or advisory commission – budget committee, anyone? – and then report back to us the reality of what the city has to spend and who gets what amount of funding and who does not. It is an education. Also, if you devote the required amount of time to do the work for your committee, you may find it is not as simple as you may think.

          • Tom says:

            Elizabeth,

            The choice for the parking study was a very simple one, The response right off the top of most commenters was, What parking problem??
            So too this would have popped into the city’s thought process. Explaining what a process city government is, doesn’t change this. Yes demands are high versus revenue. It’s those who decide what demands do or do not dictate the allocation of such revenue. There was nothing confusing about this decision. Let’s get real. What was the reasoning for those members votes to go ahead with the study? To many play alongs sitting on the council.
            Some of us have been in a such a position and are very knowledgeable of the processes. The demographics/downtown layout of Albany clearly indicate we did not to spend 40k+ on a parking study, let alone a Parking Enforcement Officer.

        • J. Jacobson says:

          Based on this comment, are we to assume that any boob can be the mayor?

      • Tom says:

        I agree with the voting aspect as well, but I am not throwing poor decision making of this parking study etc solely on the voters. There are times a person believes they are going to receive certain results from those they did vote for, only for find out they were deceived and those in office are not as strong or competent as we had hoped. This is a plain disregard of the needs of the people of this city and irrational politics.

        • Elizabeth Bailey says:

          My friend, read what I wrote above to Ray’s comment. It applies to your comment, as well. It comes under the heading of “Put your money where your mouth is.”

          Utah Philips, a folk singer and activist, many years ago, wrote a song called “Good, Though.” I’m sorry I cannot cite where to find this song; I imagine if you went to YouTube it would pop up quickly. The song is a funny but apropos telling of this thread of comments.

          I recommend looking up this song for your amusement and insight.

  8. Cheryl P says:

    I’ve never had a problem parking downtown. If I have to walk a block or so, it’s no big deal.

    HOWEVER, the suggestion that downtown employees BIKE to work…are you freaking kidding me?!?

  9. Rachel La Brasseur says:

    Once again I am begging to the people that passionate about Albany and are frustrated with the things have been ran the past and present, to please consider running for mayor! With our VERY low voter turn out combined with minimal opponents to actually vote for, we are, in my opinion a good example of the Chaos Theory. I believe until Albany comes together for change in our city government, we will continue to be frustrated. Of course you cannot please everyone, and you may not feel qualified to be a mayor, but give it a shot!

    • Elizabeth Bailey says:

      I wholeheartedly agree! Really, the greatest qualification for mayor or commissioners is a willingness to read all the paperwork your are given and a commitment to attend all of the meetings required of the position. Doing this is one of the highest callings of civic responsibility and honor to the community we all call our home.

  10. MsJ says:

    Term limits for mayor & councilor positions would rid the stagnation & faulty thought processes.

    It would also open the door for those who want to step forward & run for these positions and provide fresh, new approaches for the benefit of Albany.

    Unfortunately for Albany citizens, many of the incumbents desire to hold onto this power ad infinitum.

    • centrist says:

      MsJ
      Getting off the couch and running for office would “open the door for those who want to step forward & run for these positions and provide fresh, new approaches for the benefit of Albany”
      Until somebody has the gumption to run against an incumbent, things will continue as.
      The complainers have redy access to solving their own complaints.

    • Ray Kopczynski says:

      “Term Limits” are an anathema on the body politic IMO. Why? Because the “limits” are easily handled by the power of the vote. I wouldn’t have it any other way!

  11. Albany YIMBY says:

    Yes, there is not a parking problem in a downtown that is something like 40% parking in surface. Hopefully, the will get to have a 100% parking lot surface for it to be a parking heaven, for nothing to do there.

    It seems that the study couldn’t even conceive that Downtown has TOO MUCH parking. Free parking comes at a price: https://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/15/business/economy/15view.html

    For a lot of the surface occupied by these lots could be dedicated to other uses, like residential, commercial, or both. 1st and 2nd from Ellsworth to Calapooia would be wonderful pedestrian streets with many amenities. https://assets-global.website-files.com/581110f944272e4a11871c01/59afff33620ad600015731c2_Str%C3%B8get-Copenhagen-Denmark-Adventure-Priority-FLICKR-660×495.jpg

  12. J.Jacobson says:

    That this many Albany residents have their knickers in a twist over a non-existent parking problem tells us a great deal about how little there actually is to be concerned about in Our Fair City.

  13. MsJ says:

    @ Ray

    Term limits are definitely NOT easily handled by the power of the vote – quite apparent considering a few of the councilors and mayor have worn the fabric in their seats for decades.

    The many-term incumbents wouldn’t want it any other way either as far as (no) term limits are concerned – they can “homestead” for almost as long as they wish.

    A main reason you don’t see many candidates running against these tenured incumbents is that they’ve been entrenched in their positions for so long that no one stands a reasonable chance to successfully run against them – there is simply too much resistance/financial support/networking and this wall becomes too high for anyone attempting to climb it.

    The majority of State Governors have term limits and eight of them have lifetime limits, meaning the position can be held for a designated time, then they must vacate the office permanently.

    There is a reason for term limits –
    It allows new people to have a chance to come into the position and present fresh, new ideas and thinking.

    A quick Google search on advantages of term limits reveals:
    1. Encourages active representation
    2. Promotes new ideas
    3. Reduces opportunities for corruption
    4. Reduces short term political pressure
    5. Empowers new arrivals

    Trump has stated he would like to be POTUS for as long as he wants (i.e., no term limits) and hinted he may explore changing laws to allow this (Trump definitely wouldn’t want it any other way). Honestly ask yourself if you would support this. I wouldn’t, and for me it doesn’t matter if it’s Trump, Obama or any other past president or candidate. I don’t want the stagnation in the highest office in the land any more than in Albany.

    • Ray Kopczynski says:

      “Term limits are definitely NOT easily handled by the power of the vote – quite apparent considering a few of the councilors and mayor have worn the fabric in their seats for decades.”

      That is ONLY because folks are unwilling to get off their butts, convince the voters in their Ward they can do a better job, and run an effective campaign. Period! I believe 100% of your other points are simply complaining that you couldn’t get support for a change in your Ward – and are unwilling to marshal support for your candidacy as a councilor or mayor. Yes there are one or two long-time serving councilors. Pure & simple, that means the folks in their Ward are satisfied with the overall job they are doing. There have been **multiple** different councilors over the past 10+ years! That belies your point about folks being entrenched. I get folks that folks are possibly apathetic to getting involved, but that is no reason for term limits IMO.

      “The many-term incumbents wouldn’t want it any other way either as far as (no) term limits are concerned – they can “homestead” for almost as long as they wish.”

      Hogwash. See my comment above.

      “…they’ve been entrenched in their positions for so long that no one stands a reasonable chance to successfully run against them – there is simply too much resistance/financial support/networking and this wall becomes too high for anyone attempting to climb it.”

      So why have we had multiple different councilors over the past years?

      “There is a reason for term limits –
      It allows new people to have a chance to come into the position and present fresh, new ideas and thinking.”

      You are implying that folks are unable to bring those same ideas & thinking to their 2 councilors? Or better yet, bring them directly to a council work session and a council meeting to be addressed? That’s a serious cop-out excuse IMO.

  14. MsJ says:

    @ Ray

    Let’s be exact, we’re talking 1 mayor and 6 councilor positions for a total of 7.
    Here are the stats on years of service at the end of each person’s current term:

    Konopa 24 (12 yrs as mayor + 12 yrs as councilor)
    Olsen 34 (32 yrs as councilor + 2 yrs mayor)
    Johnson 20
    Coburn 12
    Kellum 8
    Sykes 4
    Johnson II 4

    By way of these facts, there are also multiple councilors (3) and mayor (1) who will have been in these positions three terms and well beyond that. These four people (90 years combined) at the top outnumber the three newest people (16 years combined) at the bottom who are either on their 1st or 2nd terms, so there is a lot less change going on here than you are trying to portray, it’s incredibly skewed and in the opposite way you think.

    The top four names are currently on their 6th (mayor), 6th, 5th, and 3rd terms, respectively, and ARE entrenched, look at how many years they’ve been there overall and this will probably turn into a 7th, 7th, 6th, & 4th terms or more. It’s no small wonder people don’t want to challenge them – the odds are too long. I would venture to say there would be a lot more candidates coming forward if they didn’t face incumbents who have already been there forever and a day.

    Term limits gives new candidates a chance.
    The five advantages of term limits I listed earlier are compelling.

    It’s not about laziness, apathy or “getting off one’s butt” as you phrase it. It is about realizing one’s reasonable chance of success of running against these people before investing a big part of their lives. I suppose if someone had a war chest of money to burn, then you might have a contender – money does win campaigns. You can erase your “only” and your “period” and consider alternative, open-minded reasons.

    It’s absolutely not hogwash that those in power have a desire to hold onto it, history has proven that countless times and why there are dictators still on this planet to the detriment of their subjects.

    I’ll agree there have been changes in only 3 of the councilor/mayor positions over the last 10-12 years, but you must accept the fact that the other 4 councilor/mayor positions have not changed for absurdly long periods of time – these facts support my point ! – even more so when combined lengths of service are compared.

    Placing term limits on a ballot would settle the question in a democratic way whether Albany residents want them or not, but I’ll bet a 42K parking study there are at least 3 councilors and 1 mayor that will stifle a ballot like this any way they can as they prefer to homestead and relish in the power they’ve had for literally decades.

    I guess putting sensitive issues like this to a people’s vote would just, to borrow Shakespeare, scare the dickens out of them – they are afraid of the outcome and would rather quash it then let their constituent’s decide as a democracy demands.

    • centrist says:

      Balderdash.
      The incumbents stay in position because no viable opposition has come forward to run. There’s no conspiracy to quash competition. THERE’S NO COMPETITION because no one will GET OFF THE COUCH.
      Those who are opposed to the incumbents, but do nothing constructive, have effectively voted to accept them

    • J. Jacobson says:

      One wonders what rewards there must be, if all these repeat councilors and mayor keep running…just what exactly is the attraction. There’s no money to be made, so it is likely that these positions attract persons who enjoy lording-over others. Power, like opioids, is addictive…that much is well understood. The question is, how does one withdraw from the rush of power when the addiction is so strong. Perhaps an intervention. Ah…term limits is like the methadone of politics. Give people a “taste” but have statutes in place that prevent long term addiction.

    • Craigz says:

      Cities need term limits (as well as every other political position all the way up into the Federal Congress), including my little town of Millersburg. Many people have asked for it, suggested it, Council candidates running on it. It never happens anywhere it seems. Why ? They are protecting their own positions of power. Because they know better than we do. The entire trick here is to elect people that will follow through with their promises, stay true to their core principles and NOT become part of “the Government” and group think.

  15. MsJ says:

    Not saying there’s any ‘conspiracy theory’ thwarting potential candidates coming forward.

    The context was if there was a movement to put term limits on the ballot, there would be an attempt to quash it – something similar has happened before (think Cordier’s debt initiative a few year’s back).

    I agree that not enough people come forward to challenge entrenched incumbents, the odds are too great for reasons explained previously.

    Term limits would make the playing field more fair and competitive and I think that’s when you’ll see people ‘get off the couch’.

  16. Ray Kopczynski says:

    MsJ —

    Trying to reset the idea a bit.

    Looking at your list of time served, I don’t believe that folks serving their Ward[s] (or community) for a long period of time is necessarily a bad thing. I’ll grant that it appears some of the folks are “entrenched” by your definition but to what end? As JJ succinctly states says with his comments, it sure ain’t the money! Why else would a person continually (as I’ve oft stated), “volunteer to wear a target on your back?” I don’t buy the “power argument one whit. You’re volunteering to serve because you believe (and have garnered support to that end) you have good ideas to offer and to get yourself elected. Do you honestly think ANY of the councilors EVER dream/think of ways they can screw the community?

    Looking at the list, I have to note that 3 of the currently sitting councilors also have full-time jobs in addition to the hours they spend trying to get their arms around the policy-issues facing the city. It’s not unusual for councilors to also work while serving.

    Thinking back, exactly how did all of the councilor who have served in the past – get their start?? Rarely do they get appointed. (I was one and then the day after I did get elected, summarily said [on camera] I was not going to run again.) That means those folks had to do their hard work to run a campaign. And if you cannot raise the minimal funds to do your campaign yourself, you need to raise the funds elsewhere – IF you can get support. If you cannot, you get to do it the old fashioned way: pound the pavement and knock on doors. No one ever said it was easy.

    I’ll guarantee you that the job is not what you think it is. It took me at *least* a year before I felt nominally comfortable about many of the issues that came before us. And at time, I get but a single vote – period. If I can’t articulate a position to change the votes of my my peers, it’s not because they necessarily have a better idea (in my opinion), just that I couldn’t garner support for my way of thinking. That’s how the system is designed to work.

    However, I will state categorically, an election will never be won by anyone unwilling to put their name out there and not use the anonymity availed to them in a blog…

  17. West End Gal says:

    Ray has the gift of bringing the wild and crazy frothings of the regular brigade back to reality.

  18. MsJ says:

    @ Ray

    Sure, it’s not about the money for long-term incumbents nor the newly-elected. It’s mostly about keeping one’s personal stamp on decision-making in Albany for as long as possible – that is the addictive/power part as JJ also states – and very valid. I certainly don’t believe the people in these positions are drawing up schemes to screw the community – that’s just ludicrous, but maybe others believe it. If true, I can’t imagine they would be in office long.

    No argument that councilor/mayor positions require dedicated, hard work – that was the choice made. Your comment on how you entered into a councilor position piqued my interest. The ward you had recently represented and now held by Alex, Ward 2A, I believe was previously represented by Ralph Reid (God rest his soul and I thought he did a good job). Ralph was on his 5th term as councilor before he resigned due to illness, which allowed you to take his place as an appointed councilor. You were re-elected a 2nd term (congrats on the hard work), but then as you said, two terms would be it and you would step down afterwards.

    My point in all this gravitates back to the list of long-term incumbents in three other (and different) wards plus the mayor position. Now include Ward 2A, at least until recently, and you have 5 of 7 positions (4 councilors + 1 mayor) that have been occupied for 12+ years). I’ll admit, Coburn at 12 years was only 2-3 years concurrent with Ralph’s 5 terms, but the entrenched pattern is there. Ralph’s resigning due to illness opened a much easier door for you to occupy that position, and in turn, your stepping down after the 2nd term (which I respect) opened an easier door for Alex (yes, he also had to put in hard work to campaign).

    If one had a choice to run against an entrenched incumbent v. an open position, I think you honestly know what that choice would be.

    This is what term limits would do fairly for all 7 positions.

    Apparently as Craigz has experienced, this doesn’t happen often even if promised by a candidate or wanted by the people and supports why term limits should be decided by the people on a ballot.

  19. Julie Warren says:

    Term limits should be for anyone elected

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