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Parking study review finds some holes


Parking commission to revise report, send it to city council



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Hill (click for larger version)

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Connors

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Jordan (click for larger version)
September 10, 2013 | 01:55 PM
Members of the Lake Geneva Parking Commission reviewed some of the errors, oversights and omissions of the preliminary parking report during a special meeting Sept. 4.

"I think we need to plug all the holes and have them issue a final report," said Mayor Jim Connors, who attended the meeting.

The first draft of the final parking study report should be ready for the parking commission's regular Sept. 18 meeting, Connors said.

That will give the parking commission one more chance to review it and make recommendations before an Oct. 7 public hearing.

The public hearing will be scheduled just prior to the city council's committee of the whole meeting. Representatives from Rich & Associates, the consultants who wrote the report, are expected to be at the meetings.

In November, the Lake Geneva City Council hired Rich & Associates, Southfield, Mich., for $26,325 and charged the consulting company with developing a parking study and plan for the city.

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Rich took six weeks to gather data, from about mid-May to mid-July before submitting the 106-page preliminary report in early September.

The study found that the city has a total of 3,122 year-round parking spaces, public and private.

The consultants did not put a time table on their recommendations, but indicated that sooner or later, the city needs to consider a parking structure.

Rich & Associates recommended the Cook Street lot, behind the Geneva Theater, as the site for the new parking structure.

That recommendation received little attention from the commissioners.

Alderwoman Sarah Hill, who represents the city council on the commission, said she didn't think the consultants made a strong argument for a parking structure.

What caught some of the parking commissioners by surprise was that people parking in the downtown generally didn't stay much longer than two hours.

The parking turnover study was done in two parts, one just before the peak season May 16 and 18, and one after tourist season was in full swing, July 18 and 20.

What the turnover count found was that, averaging all four days together, 66 percent of those who parked in the downtown area parked for just two hours or less.

More than one commissioner questioned whether that was true.

Connors pointed out that the parking assessment involved taking down license numbers and tracking them, to determine whether those who leave a parking space left the study area, or simply relocated elsewhere.

"There is a method in determining the turnover rate is two hours," Connors said.

One of the first recommendations by the study is that the parking downtown be reduced from five hours per car per stall to two hours.

Kevin Fleming, a downtown businessman, said he was surprised that the turnover rate for downtown parking is about two hours. But he added that he would not want to see downtown parking pushed back to a two-hour limit.

Connors said that he would recommend against reducing the five hour parking in the business district.

There were no dissenters.

Other recommendations included eliminating the two-hour free parking for residents, buying parking enforcement another handheld computer and that the city follow proposed federal guidelines for on-street handicapped parking, even though the guidelines have not yet been approved.

Hill said it was hard to follow all of the recommendations made by R&A. She suggested that the consultants collect their recommendations into a "recommendation matrix" to list those proposals as part of an executive summary.

Hill said she was disappointed that there was no analysis of Luke (parking kiosk) data. One of the consultants' suggestions was to vary parking rates around the city, charging a higher rate for high-demand spaces and lower rates for spaces that have a lower demand.

"What would be the impacts of charging more in peak blocks and less elsewhere?" Hill asked.

She said the consultants should provide the city with pricing models to show the effects of charging different rates for different parking spaces.

And what about shuttle service?

"There's nothing that mentions the feasibility or viability of a shuttle service," Hill said. Would that service offset employee parking concerns?

One of the mentioned options is a full-service shuttle, Hill said. "What if we charge a buck a ride?" she asked.

Marty Smith, commission chairman, said he noticed there was no mention of TIF funds or financing in the plan, even though most of downtown and surrounding areas are eligible for tax increment finance district funding.

Smith said the impression he got from the study is that those who park in the city come in different flavors.

They are beachgoers, shoppers, employees, cruisegoers, path hikers and casual tourists.

And some multitask, coming into the downtown to have breakfast and then going on a cruise, or doing some shopping and then sitting in the park.

All have different parking needs and tend toward certain parking areas.

"My sense is, we need more parking," Smith said.

Those new parking areas must be large enough and friendly enough to attract people who want to set their cars aside for a while, he added.

"We want more types of parking," said Smith. And the city should be able to direct people to parking that is convenient not only for where they are going, but also for their planned activities for the day.

Some of the items mentioned in the study were confusing.

City Administrator Dennis Jordan, who was at the meeting, said he read where the city has 37,040 square feet of vacant space in the downtown.

"Where?" Jordan asked.

The old Traver Hotel and the Geneva Theater are two obvious vacancies, but they don't account for the total 37,040 square feet, he said.

The report also mentions valet parking on Wrigley Drive and the need for the city to control it. Except, there is no valet parking along Wrigley or anywhere else in the city.

The council gave businesses along Wrigley the right to valet parking, but no one is doing it, Connors said.

About the study

Rich's study area was bounded by Dodge Street to the north, Sage Street and Lake Shore Drive to the east, Campbell to Wrigley to Main streets to the south and Maxwell Street to the west.

What the consultants found was that the pressure for parking was so great during the peak summer season, that they had to go outside their study area to follow where visitors and downtown employees and business people were parking.

The study goes on to note that the current peak season deficit is 350 parking spaces, which does not include the 324 residential parking spaces.

Even if those 324 residential parking spaces are thrown into the general mix of parking, the city comes up 26 parking spaces short on an average summer weekend.

Parking is not a problem during the off season, the report concluded.

The city still has enough parking for the next five to 10 years, after which the parking situation would become critical. Connors said he assumed from the report that most of the complaints about the new parking system come from local residents.

"People who come from Chicago and Milwaukee deal with these things every day and don't think boo about them," Connors said.

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