City parking, no matter the city, can often be an iffy proposition, especially in a place as vibrant and popular with tourists as Asheville. But that doesn’t mean there’s not enough spots to go around, Council member Brownie Newman told fellow members at Council’s March 25 meeting before they unanimously accepted a parking study conducted by Cary, N.C., firm Kimley-Horn & Associates.
Newman, noting that Council is also in the process of analyzing bus-transit routes in an effort to boost ridership and reduce vehicle traffic, said, “I think there is a myth that there are no spaces available, and there are.”
Patricia Dinsley, of suburban Knoxville, Tenn., would tend to agree. Dinsley says she comes to Asheville about a half-dozen times a year. In all her time coming here over the past decade or so, she says, she’s had no problem finding parking — unless it’s during the Bele Chere festival.
“But then again, I’ve learned where to go when I’m just here to go shopping or see a concert. I only go to the garages; I don’t bother with parking on the street unless it’s a killer spot that’s close enough for me to feed the meters. I think I’ve maybe had three times where one of the garages I wanted to park at was absolutely full. But I just went somewhere else and walked. A little exercise never killed anyone, and besides, walking around the downtown is one of the great things about coming here because you run into so many different kinds of people and discover new places. Whenever I come here I’m much more worried about hitting a pedestrian or getting stuck in downtown traffic than I ever am in finding parking.”
However, despite 11,889 public and private spaces downtown, there are trouble spots, according to the study, which also gained input through two public forums held within the past five months. The results indicated a parking deficit in the Battery Park, Lexington Avenue, City/County Plaza and Biltmore Avenue areas during the weekday, Cathy Ball, the city’s director of Transportation and Engineering, told Council. Haywood Street is another problem area, the study indicated. The areas, it added, are the prime locations for any new parking facilities the city might want to build. The city already is studying the feasibility of building a new, additional parking deck on Rankin Avenue that would potentially create 700 new spaces.
The study also evaluated the parking operations and management. The results indicated the need for better wayfinding and easier payment methods, among other things, which Ball says the city is working on.
One way to make parking easier is to find ways to open up private parking to the general public, according to the $97,500 study, which was paid for through the city’s Parking Enterprise Fund. Of the total parking supply, only 24 percent is public parking. In addition to simply creating more spaces, public input also indicated a strong desire to create park-and-ride satellite lots outside of downtown. Members of the public also noted the need for enhanced security in parking decks to increase their usage, especially at night and on weekends.
— Hal L. Millard, staff writer