GENEVA — The problem with parking in downtown Geneva is that people think there’s a problem.
That’s one of the conclusions of a new downtown parking study conducted by Bergmann Associates in conjunction with the city.
The $40,000 study started about a year ago and was paid with $36,000 in state funds and $4,000 of city money, said Sage Gerling, the city’s director of neighborhood initiatives.
The study includes input from three public meetings and a web survey. Some of the research was gathered from input during the Downtown Revitalization Initiative planning process, Gerling said.
The document is mostly complete but will get some final tweaks related to the implementation of some of the recommendations, said Gerling.
She said the perception that there is too little parking is inaccurate but understandable. Sometimes people just don’t know where those parking spaces are, Gerling explained. Sometimes the spaces are farther away from motorists’ intended downtown destinations.
And there are some times, such as during special events, when parking is hard to find.
For the most part, though, Geneva is still under what is considered by municipal planners to be the optimum parking spot occupancy goal of 85 percent.
Gerling said that percentage gives motorists the perception that visiting downtown is a desirable thing. But if there are too many spots, people may believe a stop downtown is not worth their time. This is particularly true for visitors, who many believe are driving a good amount of downtown’s renaissance.
Still, there are times when it is hard to find parking, and the city is looking at a number of options to address that issue, as well, said Gerling.
One other takeaway is that the city has no need for a parking garage — at least not yet.
Besides a perceived lack of parking, other issues identified in the study include:
• Confusing regulations and signage.
• Limited overnight parking options.
• Pedestrian safety concerns.
• Reduced viability of development due to excessive parking standards.
Gerling said confusing regulations and signage are indeed problems, explaining that there are 10 different parking regulations for both on-street and off-street parking in downtown Geneva.
“It’s confusing for people,” she said.
The study suggests a number of answers to downtown parking issues — real or perceived — including simplified regulations; way-finding improvements; residential and employee parking permits; new, innovative parking technologies; identifying new parking areas where there is a need; and parking provisions and standards that encourage downtown development.
On the need for new spaces, Gerling points to private business lots that the city could either purchase or lease. For example, the study notes as an example one of the parking lots at the Finger Lakes Times on Genesee Street, which is a quick walk to the bustling Linden Street area. Other lots identified include the 1 Franklin Square lot on Exchange, as well as two other privately owned lots on the street.
Additionally, said the study, some of downtown’s best parking places are being taken up by people who work downtown and rarely leave the spaces. One answer: a voluntary effort to encourage workers to use public lots and not the coveted street spaces. Another is to set up a parking permit system that could include downtown workers while also providing residents living in the central business district the ability to park overnight.
More enforcement eyed
Another issue identified is inconsistent enforcement of parking regulations, which result in motorists taking up those coveted on-street spaces well beyond designated times. Gerling noted that there is a part-time city worker who monitors this, while police also do enforcement when they can. The study suggests that a full-time worker be assigned to the task.
Other suggestions include implementing a way-finding system for parking that includes better signs, including some of the digital variety that could be updated to reflect weather conditions or special events. The study also proposes experimenting with sensors on light poles in municipal lots that could be connected to a mobile app to inform drivers of available spots.
Gerling said some of the proposals could be implemented in the coming year, while others will be phased in over a longer period of time. Many initiatives will need to be adopted and budgeted by Council.
The study suggest that any changes to the city’s myriad parking regulations be done on a smaller scale before any larger rollout of changes.