CASPER, Wyo. — Casper Mayor Charlie Powell says that multiple communities face downtown parking congestion issues just like in Casper.
He says that the trend within these communities is to turn to parking meters to address their congestion issues.
Powell pointed to a book titled “The High Cost of Free Parking” by Donald Shoup as a good source of information on the negative impact congestion has on a community’s downtown.
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Ensuring that parking spaces see turnover at a decent clip is the challenge municipalities face, Powell says. Once people have it in mind that it is difficult to find a parking space downtown, they may abandon visiting the city center altogether.
“The goal is to create the perception that if I drive downtown, there’s a pretty good chance that I find a space,” Powell told the Downtown Development Authority Board of Directors at their Wednesday, Oct. 9 meeting.
The city council began to discuss the possibility of bringing parking meters back to Casper’s downtown during a September work session.
City Planner Craig Collins told the DDA that parking meters were just one aspect of the city’s proposals to improve the rate of parking turnover downtown. He and Community Development Director Liz Becher pointed to a 2018 Urban Center Parking Plan as the document guiding the city’s planning.
That document sets out a number of objectives in addition to parking meters. Those include encouraging more use of the downtown parking garage, improving parking enforcement and better communicating the importance of downtown parking to the community.
The DDA manages the downtown parking garage. Executive Director Kevin Hawley said that whatever the city decides to do to address downtown parking, nothing will change unless rules are enforced.
Powell and Becher said that parking meters would make it much easier and more cost effective to monitor parking downtown. The mayor said that keeping track of whether a car has been parked in a spot too long is time and labor intensive under the current system since a parking official has to physically go check and document that a vehicle has exceeded the downtown 2 hour limits.
“The average car violates the two hour limit,” he added. “It is extremely difficult to enforce. It’s a virtual impossibility.”
“It is so much easier to enforce with the meters.”
He emphasized that the parking meter plan is meant to be “revenue neutral.” By this, Powell means that revenue from parking meters would be meant to pay for parking infrastructure and parking enforcement officials.
“Revenue from the meters can pay for someone to check,” he said, adding that the projected revenue wouldn’t be enough to pay for other other things the city wants to do.
Becher said that the proposal is to put parking meters in places to enforce rules on Center, Wolcott David and Second Street. That zone would stretch from Midwest Avenue to First Street, though could potentially stretch up to Collins Drive along David Street.
The city council will again discuss parking downtown on Oct. 22, according to Becher. She urged the DDA to draft a letter to highlight the importance of a healthy turnover of downtown parking.