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Parking study tells us what we already know

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October 08, 2013 | 11:50 AM
If I were to rate the latest Lake Geneva parking study like a movie I’d give it one star — and that would be charitable.

The study premiered publicly at a hearing before the parking commission Monday night.

You can read the story on 1A of today’s Regional News.

As one speaker said, we were expecting answers.

Instead, we got a series of little ideas, presented with a total lack of conviction and not much insight.

The one big idea — a parking structure — was so lamely presented that the price wasn’t even revealed because the type was too small to read on the screen and the study presenter was apparently too shy to say it out loud.

Of course, anyone who is truly interested in parking can read the entire study on the city’s website.

They’ll find out the cost of such a structure is between $8 and $9 million, but not much more.

The study itself wasn’t worth the $26,325 the city spent on it based on the new information it provided.

I don’t blame the city council for contracting for the study. If you want to finally get off dead center about parking issues in this city, some due diligence is required.

Instead of going on hearsay and previous studies, there was wisdom in updating the information just to see the situation in real time before spending any more time and money.

In reality, though, hearsay and previous studies were worth about as much. I can’t even blame the company the city hired.

Maybe there’s just nothing new to be said. The city needs more parking. That’s about it.

There is only one potential magic bullet — a parking structure.

But that’s expensive and there’s no guarantee it wouldn’t end up to be an empty albatross around the city’s neck for half the year.

On the other hand, there is some money set aside in the TIF fund that could be used without an impact on the taxpayers.

As was the case with previous discussions about parking, the study only presented tweaks.

Some may have merit — like limiting downtown parking to two hours and having day-long times for some parking locations outside the core area. That would encourage downtown workers to use the longer-term parking and not take away crucial spots for visitors.

But some of the ideas seem wrong-headed or controversial. For instance, the study suggested eliminating two-hour free parking for residents.

Of course, a parking structure probably wouldn’t win a majority of local voters either.

Backing a parking structure takes a long view.

In order for it not to be empty half the year, it has to be based on the assumption that the city can expand its tourist season beyond the summer and/or that the city’s shopping area expands. In a perfect world, the downtown would thrive but be less congested for locals.

If the downtown would eventually become a mecca for visitors 12-months of the year and make friends with the locals again, a parking structure might be the worth the expense.

So what to do now?

The city is left with pretty much the status quo with a few tweaks or biting the bullet and looking seriously at a parking structure.

If a parking structure is the choice, building it sooner than later has merit considering such projects rarely get less expensive over time.

But before more money is spent the city needs to do its own due diligence and research parking structures in other tourist-based communities.

It may also have to make a case to present to constituents who put them in office — who would probably vote “no” on the issue as it stands.

I think both those things are doable.

The city council either has to go beyond tweaking or throw up its hands and pretty much say the status quo is as good as it gets.

This is the time to do something or declare the problem unsolvable.

This is a good city council with a good mix of brains and common sense.

This is their time.

Parking is their issue.

Halverson is editor and general manager of the Regional News.


Tags: Staff Editorial

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