DDA looks to create more parking, more revenue

MARQUETTE – Marquette’s Downtown Development Authority is looking to craft a new long-term parking and traffic management plan for the city that could result in increased on-street spaces and a higher percentage of paid parking.

The DDA recently commissioned a downtown parking study by New York- based firm Nelson/Nygaard Parking Consultants and representatives were present Friday morning to present the study results to a joint work session of the DDA and the Marquette City Commission.

Nelson/Nygaard parking analyst Tom Brown told told the group that the first thing he looks at when he begins a review for a city is whether the local parking system is profitable.

“Right now, you pretty consistently have a subsidized parking system,” Brown said. “I’ve seen places more heavily subsidized, but (Marquette’s) is running at a loss.”

DDA Executive Director Mona Lang has said in the past that the DDA’s parking fund has run a deficit – ranging anywhere from $12,000 to $102,000 – for as long as she can recall.

Between the fiscal years of 2008 and 2011, the DDA parking system has operated at an average deficit of $49,072.67, according to the Nelson/Nygaard study. Over that time, users in the system have paid an average of 69 cents for each dollar it takes to maintain the system.

During two visits to Marquette, Brown’s team studied parking and traffic in the city and concluded that the supply of parking spaces in the downtown district – which includes Washington Street from Lakeshore Boulevard to Seventh Street, Third Street from Baraga Avenue to Fair Avenue and Front Street from Baraga to Ridge – was sufficient.

Brown said some benefit could be gained by increasing convenience for users. Many public parking spaces near Washington Street are free, but have two-hour limits imposed. Brown, who did in-person surveys and also used a web-based survey, said many visitors to the downtown would likely be willing to pay for the ability to park for longer than two hours.

Parking prices could vary in different sections of downtown to reflect demand, he said.

On a whole, according to Brown, the main downtown area is well-planned and allows people to walk wherever they would like to go.

On the other hand, the Third Street section of the downtown district is a bit different. It doesn’t fit the “traditional downtown model,” he said.

“It’s been developed in a very different way,” Brown told the group. “It’s very car-oriented and there isn’t much walking.”

In that type of area, public parking is imperative and extra spaces could be made available, Brown said, simply by moving the “no parking from here to corner” signs closer to intersections. Brown added that he had “never seen quite the setbacks” as he did in Marquette.

Brown also suggested the city look at crafting transit connections between the campus of Northern Michigan University and Third and Washington streets. He also said the city may want to consider increased information sharing between the DDA and the police, who enforce parking regulations, as well as implementing incrementally increasing parking fines.

Lang said the next step is to sit down with the DDA board, as well as the city planning commission to craft a more concrete more long-term parking plan.

“This is going to be an on-going process and it’s going to become a priority,” she said. “But it’s more than just parking. It’s a whole transportation (system). There are just so many issues that are inter-related with this.”

The report will be available at the DDA office or at the city clerk’s office.

Kyle Whitney can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 250. His email address is kwhitney@miningjournal.net