Working on parking issues in Naperville’s downtown: shuttles? Parking garages? Perceptions about available spots?

This is an ongoing issue in Naperville: is there enough parking at peak times and, perhaps more importantly, do people think that there is enough parking? Here is part of the background to a discussion the city recently had about having shuttles to the downtown:

The topic came up again last year during the city’s strategic planning discussions, leading to planners’ latest look at the feasibility. Robles said they found the city’s cost per ride would be about $58, up from $45 in 2006 and the city hasn’t been hearing a demand from residents.

The issue, she said, seems to pop up every few years in part because some people have a perception there isn’t enough downtown parking. Including both public and private spots, there currently are about 3,300 downtown parking spaces.

A 2010 study showed on Friday nights – peak parking time – 77 percent of those spots tended to be full on average. The city will be doing a follow-up study this summer and Robles said she anticipates that occupancy percentage increasing into the lower 80s.

Reaching occupancy rates in the 80s tends to make people feel there isn’t enough parking, she said. But she hopes the city’s parking guidance systems that tell drivers how many spaces are really available in some facilities will help ease that perception.

Several thoughts about this:

1. I don’t think the “parking guidance systems” cited above are accurate all the time. For example, we drove into the Van Buren garage a few Fridays go because the sign said there was 45 spots available. We drove slowly, in a long line of cars, all the way to the top and all the back down again, finally finding a spot near the exit where someone was pulling out.

2. There is always street parking in the residential neighborhoods just north and west of the downtown. However, that would require a 5-10 minute walk for people. Is this the real issue: visitors (resident and non-residents) demand to park within a minute or two of their destination?

3. People perceive there is not enough parking when it occupancy is in the eighties percent range. This is fascinating: this still means that at least 1 of 10 parking spots are available and possibly as high as 1 out of 5. The issue of parking seems to be more about perceptions than actual availability.

4. Is this only an issue on Friday and Saturday nights between roughly early May and early September? In other words, how much parking does one build for 40 nights out of the year when those spaces will go unfilled at other times?

5. Has anyone ever tried to quantify for Naperville (or other places) how much business they might be losing by not having the sort of big box store/shopping mall parking lots?

6. Of course, this is not a new issue in Naperville. A few years ago, the city was considering building a three-level garage that would have replaced the Nichols Library lot but there was some opposition from residents (this parcel borders a residential neighborhood) and the city shelved the plans. Is building more garages really the answer in the long run?

2 thoughts on “Working on parking issues in Naperville’s downtown: shuttles? Parking garages? Perceptions about available spots?

  1. Pingback: Encouraging sprawl or downtown growth | Legally Sociable

  2. Pingback: Naperville moving forward with proposal for influential mixed-use Water Street development | Legally Sociable

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s