Olympia has hired a consultant to help improve parking in the city’s downtown core for residents, visitors and businesses.
Berk Consulting was chosen to develop a parking strategy that aligns with the anticipated downtown population growth of 5,000 people in the next 20 years.
The consultant will examine factors such as parking supply, demand-based pricing, hours of enforcement and signage, along with determining the need and cost for a large public parking structure. Total cost for the parking strategy project is about $173,500, according to the city.
Parking supervisor Karen Kenneson said the city is finalizing a contract with the consultant and expects the study to begin in October. A more detailed project timeline is in the works and feedback from the study will be provided to the Olympia City Council in early 2017.
“We’ve consistently heard of two main issues affecting downtown: homelessness and parking,” Kenneson told the council Tuesday.
Jeff Arango of Berk Consulting, who has a background in urban planning and design, said public involvement will play a key role in creating a parking strategy that complements the city’s planning and policy goals for downtown.
The consulting company has conducted parking studies for cities across the region and is assessing Bremerton’s parking system.
“It’s way more nuanced than counting cars,” Arango told the council Tuesday. “We want to involve as many people as possible in the process.”
Downtown parking facts and figures
▪ Downtown Olympia has 2,268 metered parking spaces and manages seven parking lots with 364 total spaces. All city-owned parking spaces are free after 5 p.m. on weekdays and all day on weekends with no time limits. The city does not track the number of privately owned parking spaces downtown.
▪ According to city data, parking occupancy at the 2-hour “purple meters” is lowest in the morning before peaking at noon, then peaking again at 4:45 p.m. daily. Friday is the busiest parking day of the week in downtown Olympia, with more than 70 percent of spaces occupied, while December is the busiest parking month, with more than 78 percent of spaces filled.
▪ The city expects to generate $520,000 in parking fines and penalties in 2016, along with about $1 million in other parking revenue, according to the budget.
▪ The state Capitol Campus has about 5,900 parking spaces, according to the Department of Enterprise Services, which manages parking on the campus separately from the city’s downtown parking.
▪ A 2015 survey asked business owners to identify “the single most important thing that could be done to support business and economic development in downtown Olympia.” The top two suggestions were related to the street population and parking access. Business owners said limited parking discourages customers from shopping downtown. They also expressed a desire for more free street parking and a parking garage.