Study suggests alternatives to downtown parking deck

Published 4:14 pm Tuesday, May 3, 2022

The City of Washington does not need a parking deck, according to a new study released by East Carolina University’s Community and Regional Planning program. Instead, the city can implement several alternative “practical and cost-effective” recommendations.
The findings were presented to the Pamlico Business Resource Center on behalf of the City of Washington.
The project was prepared by undergraduate students in ECU’s Transportation Planning class, led by instructor Dr. Misun Hur. Graduate students in Transportation Planning Policy also contributed to the case studies.
While the study concluded a parking deck is “economically unfeasible” for the city, it does outline 15 other recommendations to consider as solutions for parking issues downtown. The city can improve parking through a combination of signage, wayfinding, mobile parking apps and alternative transportation. Additional public parking, improved maintenance and street lighting were also suggested as well as the possible reconfiguration of traffic on 2nd Street to provide more street parking at a key location near Main Street.
Because surveys conducted during the study found that Washington residents and merchants were “unlikely to change their parking behaviors,” the study suggested pay-to-park options for high-demand areas.
“When coupled with good wayfinding and pedestrian infrastructure, requiring payment for parking will allow for a more even distribution of parking demand, eliminating much of the “shortage” of parking in downtown Washington.”
Keith Hudson, director of the Pamlico Business Resource Center, said he helped initiate the study in the interest of small businesses.
“My concern was if people viewed downtown parking as an issue, then they wouldn’t come downtown to shop,” Hudson said.
Stakeholders identified by the project included representatives of city and county government as well as the Washington-Beaufort County Chamber of Commerce, Washington Harbor District Alliance and Washington Tourism Development Authority.
“Next steps for city and county stakeholders is to embrace the findings of the study and move forward,” Hudson said. “The tragedy of most worthwhile studies is they wind up in a filing cabinet somewhere.”
The ECU study, conducted between January and April, investigated existing parking capacity, current demand, parking behavior and parking solutions. It was focused on downtown Washington, from Stewart Parkway to the south, 3rd Street to the north, Bridge Street to the west and Bonner Street to the east. Surveys were conducted with residents, merchants, visitors and public officers.
Survey respondents asked to rank parking sufficiency on a scale of 1 (very accessible) to 5 (very difficult) provided an average rank of 3.3.
Public parking lots at the Beaufort County Courthouse and along the waterfront at Stewart Parkway were identified as the most heaviest used.
Highest demand for parking downtown was reported during meal times and on the weekends.
The complete Downtown Parking Study by ECU Community and Regional Planning can be viewed HERE.