Monday, September 30, 2013

Managing Parking: A Lesson from Juneau, Alaska

Last week, I took my very first Alaskan cruise. While I generally don’t like playing the role of “tourist”, taking a cruise up to Alaska is actually a pretty cost-effective way to see the area. While seeing receding glaciers calving was both awe inspiring and depressing, as I saw first-hand the effects of climate change, I want to talk about parking in Alaska.

Juneau is the capital of Alaska and has a population of around 30,000. The community has an old downtown core as well as a typical “Langley Bypass”-type area complete with Wal-Mart, Home Depot, and all the regular chains. In some regards Juneau reminded me a bit of Langley.

Entering Parking Management Zone Sign in Juneau, Alaska.

One of the first things I noticed about Downtown Juneau is that they had a parking management plan in place. I thought the plan was ingenious. Like Downtown Langley and Fort Langley, Downtown Juneau had a parking problem; there never seemed to be enough short-term on-street parking spots free. Just like in Langley City or Fort Langley, and pretty much every other city with “free” on-street parking, long-term parkers were taking up the premium on-street spaces. While the simple solution is to introduce paid parking on-street to limit demand to 80% occupancy, it can be politically difficult to start charging for parking that used to be “free.”

In order to help manage parking demand in a politically sensitive manner, Juneau installed parking payment/registration stations in their walkable downtown core. In downtown, anyone who parks a vehicle must register at one of the parking stations. Once registered, a vehicle will get two-free hours of parking per day after which it will cost $2 per hour. The genius of the parking plan is three-fold. First, it prevents long-term parkers from playing musical-chairs with their vehicles as the two-hour parking limit does not reset if a vehicle is moved to another space. Second, it warms people up to the idea of paying for on-street parking to manage the demand. Finally, it allows people to pay a price for on-street parking if they wish to park longer than two hours in the downtown core.

As most buildings don’t have on-site parking in Downtown Juneau, there is also two city run off-street parking facilities. To encourage the use of these facilities, short-term parking is pricing at $0.50 to $0.75 per hour within them. For long-term parking, weekly, monthly, and yearly parking passes are available. A monthly parking pass in Downtown Juneau is currently $50 per month.

If Juneau was able to introduce a parking management strategy that included paid on-street parking, certainly a similar plan could be introduced in Downtown Langley and Fort Langley. One of the reasons why there is an apparent parking problem in Downtown Langley and Fort Langley is that many people who work in the area end up parking in the limited on-street spots. Introducing a parking policy like in Juneau would be a good first step to managing parking in both these areas.

Beside managing on-street parking, as I’ve posted about in the past, a central parkade is also important as it provides a place for long-term parking without needing minimum on-site parking requirements that would turn a walkable core into “Langley Bypass”-type areas.

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