Durham County

Can’t find a parking space in downtown Durham? Here’s what the city might do next

A city-owned mixed use parking garage at Mangum and Morgan streets should be finished in 2019, alleviating some of the parking needs downtown.
A city-owned mixed use parking garage at Mangum and Morgan streets should be finished in 2019, alleviating some of the parking needs downtown. dvaughan@heraldsun.com

Looking for a parking space in downtown Durham? There are 19,000 of them, but less than half are public.

A yearlong study of downtown parking has come up with new ideas as more people continue moving to and working in the city.

Shuttles, grace periods, public valet parking and parking for driverless cars are all things city leaders will consider to handle your future trips downtown. Satellite parking with shuttles were the highest priority for those surveyed at a downtown parking open house this year.

If you’re out to dinner and parked at a 2-hour meter, would you pay a higher rate to stay a third hour? That’s one option shared by Iain Banks of Nelson Nygaard, the San Francisco-based consultants who studied downtown Durham parking.

Parking meters could change their rates by the number of hours or location. Downtown meters are limited to 2-hour maximums now, and end at 7 p.m. One recommendation is to end 2-hour time limits at 4 p.m., because people who park downtown in the evenings stay longer.

Banks said a 15-minute grace period is ideal for parking enforcement, letting someone grab a coffee or run a quick errand without getting ticketed.

Banks also said the city should prepare for autonomous vehicles in the next 10 to 15 years and figure out how they will park curbside.

Dockless scooter systems could arrive even sooner, he added. Those have already arrived in Raleigh, and Durham could be next.

How much parking is there?

The city’s 2,024 on-street parking spaces downtown are busiest in the afternoon. Here is the breakdown:

8 a.m. to noon: 1,369 vacant parking spaces and 655 occupied spaces.

Noon to 4 p.m.: 1,046 vacant parking spaces and 978 occupied spaces.

4 to 8 p.m.: 1,315 vacant parking spaces and 709 occupied spaces.

Parking analyst Robert Williams said that system-wide, there’s roughly 5,700 public spaces overall downtown.

“We don’t recommend that every space should be full,” he said, with 90 percent considered “functionally full.”

That number will change when all the current construction projects, including the new city-owned mixed-use parking garage at Morgan and Mangum streets, are done.

It’s estimated those projects will result in 3,700 spaces, according to the study.

And then there are two surface parking lots owned by the county at 300 and 500 E. Main St., where redevelopment plans just in the discussion phase call for housing and parking garages.

Among the study’s key findings:

Business owners think the current pricing hurts small-business employees who work less than a traditional work week at lower wages.

Residents believe there is a shortage of short-term parking, particularly to run errands, as well as a lack of dedicated longterm spaces for residents. Community groups say it is difficult to find parking at and near high-demand locations.

A number of off-street parking spaces fill up by early weekday afternoons, including the Chapel Hill Street garage and surface lot, the Corcoran Street garage and surface lot, the YMCA, West Village, Durham Center for Senior Life, Heritage Square Shopping Center and three city and county owned lots.

Employee parking utilizes prime parking spaces with daylong occupancy downtown, which limits the availability of convenient visitor and customer parking.

While the study focused on parking cars, it did suggest ways to decrease demand: public transit and bicycle facilities improvements and better pedestrian safety and access.

The last parking study was done in 2012. There will be more public input sessions about downtown parking before the final recommendations are presented to the City Council.

“What’s the most urgent thing that we need to be thinking about?” City Manager Tom Bonfield asked. Banks said talking with private developers and owners is the place to start, and that some have already expressed interest in working with the city on making more parking available.

What’s next

The transportation study isn’t done yet, with more public input sessions being planned. Read an overview of the parking study here: parkdurham.org.

Dawn Baumgartner Vaughan: 919-419-6563; @dawnbvaughan
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