Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — The problem with downtown parking is perception, according to a newly released study by a pair of UB graduate students who analyzed the situation for the city.
The three-phase study, conducted between May and early September, was undertaken to settle the question whether there’s a parking shortage downtown.
The summer interns documented all available public and privately owned parking spaces, on and off-street, in the area bounded by Union, Washburn, Transit and Genesee streets; measured parking space utilization on different days and times; and solicit feedback from business owners and a temporary, city employee-staffed parking advisory committee.
Results of the study led the interns to conclude there’s plenty of parking capacity downtown to meet current demand by residents and visitors.
The downtown parking inventory consists of 1,405 usable off-street slots and up to 249 on-street slots, if certain side streets that aren’t currently striped and posted as parking spots are included.
Parking utilization was measured six times between early June and mid July: at 2:30 and 5:30 p.m. on different Mondays, 9:30 a.m. on a Tuesday and a Thursday, 9 p.m. on a Friday and noon on a Saturday.
On average, parking lots were only 35 percent occupied during the exam period.
Even the most-used parking lots — the city-owned lot behind the YMCA and the library, the privately lot attached to the Bewley Building, and the lot associated with the Department of Motor Vehicles/county offices at Main and Market streets — had average utilization rates of less than 67 percent, the study found.
Average utilization of on-street parking was 39 percent, the study found. The Main Street-only average was 64 percent.
If there’s a shortage of parking, apparently it’s in convenient parking, the interns concluded.
“People (prefer) to park directly next to or in front of their destination. ... We have concluded there is currently, and will not be at the current pace, a parking shortage within the City of Lockport,” the University at Buffalo study said. “The shortage is simply perceived, rather than actual.”
That’s not to say no improvements in the inventory aren’t warranted, the interns noted.
Public parking lots, such as the lots next to Papa Leo’s pizzeria on Main near Cottage and next to Molinaro’s restaurant at Walnut and Pine, are “not well known and are not fully utilized,” they said.
Addition of pavement striping and wayfinding signs, specifically the blue ones that bear a “P” and a directional arrow, would help drivers find those lots, the interns suggested; adding striping and signs on the side streets north and south of Main would “create” more parking too. And removing the 2-hour-limit signs next to spots on Market Street north of the Bewley Building would free up 10 to 15 spots for all-day parkers, they observed.
Addition of bike racks along Main Street, and a city commitment to keeping walkways, parking lots and general public areas “clean, safe and healthy,” would encourage more pedestrian and bike traffic (and by extension, reduced vehicle traffic) in the area as well, they suggested.
The graduate students, Leyla Akhundzada and Amanda Fowler, presented results of their study to the Common Council this past Wednesday. The Council in turn awarded the young women certificates of appreciation for all the work they did for the city for free. The city never had a downtown parking inventory before now, Council President Anne McCaffrey noted.
The Council will vote to formally “accept” the study next month and decide which recommendations to pursue, McCaffrey said.