Effectively managing Downtown’s parking supply
By Derek Danziger
One of the most popular topics when discussing a growing Downtown is the availability and effective utilization of parking. Is there enough? Is it affordable? Is it conveniently located? Most urban environments face challenges that naturally come as a result of the movement of people that live, work, or visit the Downtown area.
Highly urbanized cities such as San Francisco or New York City have focused on solutions such as a significant public transit system to deal with increased downtown traffic. Despite San Diego’s growing trolley and bus system, Southern California, however, remains a car-dominated commuter culture, and attempts to solve increased traffic must also address parking issues. Today, there are more than 60,000 parking spaces throughout Downtown, located in a mixture of structure and surface lots, public and private and on-street parking.
With a current Downtown population of more than 30,000 residents and 75,000 daily workers, San Diego is one among many urban centers that must also find ways to accommodate a growing population (90,000 residents and 165,000 workers anticipated by 2030). Centre City Development Corp. (CCDC), working on behalf of the City Redevelopment Agency and also serving as the Downtown Community Parking District, and its Downtown partners continue working to address these challenges by implementing a Comprehensive Parking Plan to make accessing Downtown as pleasant and as convenient as possible for its visitors, employees and residents. As existing surface parking lots continue to become high-density developments Downtown, the Comprehensive Parking Plan has short and long-term goals that deal with both creating new parking supply and more effectively managing existing spaces.
Downtown’s on-street meter parking system currently utilizes innovative technologies. There are two pilot programs currently being tested, varied rates and time limits as well as new technology meters. Meters with varied rates and time limits currently have rates that range from $0.50 to $1.25 per hour and time limits that range from four to nine hours. Rates and time limits are posted within the test areas and on the meters themselves. In the second pilot program where solar-powered new technology meters are installed, parkers can pay with coins, bills, rechargeable meter debit cards and credit cards. These multi-space “pay and display” new technology meters produce receipts, so that parkers know precisely what time the meter expires and have a record of parking for business purposes. Rechargeable parking meter debit cards are also available for purchase in $10 and $45 increments at numerous locations and can be used at any parking meter in the city of San Diego including the Port District parking meters with the bright yellow poles in the Harbor Drive area.
In recent years, CCDC has constructed and opened new multi-story public garages offering more than 1,500 spaces that were outlined in its 1997 Comprehensive Parking Plan.The public garages, Park-It-On-Market (Sixth Avenue and Market) and the 6th & K Parkade, serve the business core, Gaslamp Quarter and East Village — providing parking for patrons and employees with rates as low as $1 per hour between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. and offer monthly parking. Additional private structures have been built recently near Petco Park, in the Columbia neighborhood and by the Port on the waterfront near the new Hilton hotel. In the future, mixed-use projects are envisioned that could include parking structures below public open space or parks.
In addition to constructing new spaces, some of CCDC’s goals include: reducing the necessity of utilizing single-occupancy vehicles, implementing new parking programs to optimize the utilization of on-street parking, to an 85 percent occupancy level, improving wayfinding signage directing drivers to current parking available; and encouraging transit use and improvements and car-sharing programs to reduce the need for additional parking spaces.
CCDC also plans to incorporate additional bike racks and pursue development of a comprehensive bike program throughout Downtown to help ensure that all residents, employees and visitors will be able to enjoy everything Downtown has to offer.
The Comprehensive Parking Plan focuses on parking solutions to accommodate the expected population of an additional 60,000 residents over the next 20 years and the growing business environment in Downtown San Diego. Given the promise of Downtown San Diego’s future, CCDC’s focus has to be one that balances the creation and management of parking resources, while working collaboratively with public agency partners like the San Diego Association of Governments and Metropolitan Transit System to improve public transit and encourage more pedestrian activity.
Visit ccdc.com and click on the Downtown Parking link to read the 2009 Downtown Comprehensive Parking Plan and learn more about Downtown parking programs and plans.