Results to our recent parking survey show there IS a parking problem, but the comments confirmed that it could be more about the perception than actually finding spaces. Here’s what we found.
40% of voters who said there was not a parking problem could always find a space within 2 blocks of town. 60% said they could not find a space close enough and would move their car to a closer destination. If there are spaces available it is not a “space” problem, but perceived as inconvenient shopping. An example of a Wal-Mart parking lot or a parking garage with 1,000’s of parking places is similar to this small town perceived “problem”. When there are no spaces available near the front entrance, customers complain and circle until they are closer to their destination. Big malls and shopping centers are often perceived as having “easier” parking availability and yet shoppers need to walk much farther than 2 Sewickley blocks to reach their destination.
60% of voters said that parking meters were too high-priced. The current meters on Beaver and Broad are 25¢ for 30 minutes. There are local towns and city meters that are 25¢ for 5 minutes. Comparing our “overly priced” $5 ticket to neighboring $15-$120 does not seem as outlandish as once commonly perceived. Meters on Beaver and Broad limit time to 2 hours, where as (a little known fact) meters on Straight Street, Thorn, and Centennial range from 7.5 to 10 hours and they cost 25¢ for every 2 hours! More than enough time when considering the Borough of Sewickley only has metered parking from 9am-5pm Monday-Friday and FREE on Saturday and Sunday. There are other local town and city meters that charge 24 hours 7 days a week.
Several comments were made to encourage FREE parking. That “enhancement” to Sewickley could have the same effect it has on malls and Wal-Marts as closer spaces are not likely to open up often. To improve parking management it has been suggested that parking turnovers need to be high. Time limitations, meters, ticketing and a parking management program is important to the commerce of a main street. There are different amounts of time needed for services, shopping/dining and employment. Meters should offer the flexibility to the consumer to manage their time appropriately. Reports have shown in some main street management that visitors and shoppers perceived a sense of worth and value to a community with metered parking as compared to free parking.
Sewickley is a fairly compact town that does not “sprawl” as far as malls and shopping centers. Therefore, our survey results showed that it was enjoyable to come to town for 50¢ an hour and experience the unique walkable community. In fact, Sewickley scores a 71 on a walkable town score (not too shabby for a small town).
Some felt it was the solution, others opposing, that parking garages and 2 story parking lots were the answer to Sewickley’s woes. Would it take away from the small town feel, robbing prime real estate from more commerce potential, or would that be the hub of centralized parking efficiency that the town is missing?
Overall, observations were made from store owners and residents alike that prime meters in front of stores should not be used by people who work in town but kept for the shoppers to conveniently stop in and shop. The longer term meters are better served for the 9-5 hours and shorter term meters for those running errands and supporting local businesses.
Perhaps this survey put some opinions to rest and provided a new perspective, perhaps not. 60% to 40% is not an overwhelming win or loss, but perhaps a difference of perception, and something that can be improved upon by both sides working together.