Is There Enough Parking In Downtown Dexter?

Last summer the City of Dexter commissioned Carlisle Wortman Associates Inc. (CWA) consulting firm to study parking in Downtown Dexter. The purpose of the study was to inventory existing parking and land uses; examine current parking standards; assess future parking needs; and provide alternatives for parking management.

Here is a summary of their report to the Dexter City Council at their recent Nov. 13 meeting:

Currently, Downtown Dexter contains a total of 904 parking spaces, including: 411 public on-street parking spaces, 300+ public off-street parking spaces (number varies due to temporary gravel lot(s)), and 193 private off-street parking spaces.

The study was conducted to answer the simple question: Is there enough available parking in Downtown Dexter?

The simple answer is “yes.” But then what’s the problem? Why is it so hard to find a spot? That’s what the City Council wanted to know.

The CWA survey was conducted during the peak demand times of the start of the business day around 9 a.m. through lunch hour and late afternoon into evening. The study found that parking lots closest to downtown generate the most demand because of their proximity within the core downtown area. Outlying parking lots have a large surplus of parking that is generally underutilized.

All and all, the study found that there is an overall surplus of 180 spaces available during peak times. During peak usage, parking lots within the core of the downtown area were generally near or at capacity.

This is due potentially to a number of reasons, several of which are:

  • The location of the lot to downtown activity.
  • A lack of parking enforcement of time restricted spaces.
  • The use of short-term parking spaces by long-term parkers (employees, etc.).

The survey then considered the question: Is the available parking being used in the most efficient manner?

CWA reports: “While certain parking restrictions are posted and vary by location, the City is not currently, and has not been enforcing parking time limitations in the downtown area for a number of years. In total, 181 of the total 411 on-street parking spaces have a time limitation associated with them (39 spaces for Farmer’s Market – 30 minute parking during certain days/hours and 142 spaces with a 2-hour restriction).”

When enforced, the 2-hour time limit is very effective in creating a rotation of available parking for downtown patrons.

The study suggested that the provision for employees of downtown businesses is a significant factor in parking availability as well. The 2-hour time limits, when enforced, are effective in creating parking turnover but are not conducive to longer-term employee parking, “nor should they be” the survey states.

Although it is unclear from the survey the number of employees that are utilizing spaces in the lots that at peak demand are at or near capacity, since time restrictions are not enforced “it is probable employees are parking in the public parking areas.”

CWA made the following recommendations to implement a Parking Management Plan for the City:

  1. Retain 2-hour time limit for on-street spaces. Consider adding time restrictions to onstreet spaces along Central and Jeffords Streets.
  2. Reinstate parking enforcement program, re-evaluate parking fines.
  3. Designate periphery parking areas for long-term parking for employees, business owners, and/or residents. Educate business owners and employees about the benefits of keeping “prime” parking spaces available for customers.
  4. Evaluate existing ordinance provisions and investigate new provisions to allow for further flexibility in parking requirements in the CBD, VC, and VR zoning districts.
  5. Require more private parking for new developments. Evaluate parking standards in the Zoning Ordinance for potential modification.
  6. Require parking credits where creating additional parking spaces is not possible.
  7. Consider public-private partnerships allowing use of private lots after-hours, weekends, etc.
  8. Consider additional wayfinding to guide people to park and walk to destinations.
  9. Establish a parking committee to over-see parking policy and management alternatives.

With the results of the study now in hand, the Dexter City Council are now considering how to best move forward in their efforts to alleviate the parking congestion in Downtown Dexter.

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