Olympia wants to know (again) what you think about downtown parking

Downtown Olympia parking

Business owners and shoppers share their thoughts on finding parking in downtown Olympia.
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Business owners and shoppers share their thoughts on finding parking in downtown Olympia.

The public is invited to take a survey about parking in downtown Olympia as part of a new 10-year parking strategy.

The online survey is available through March 3 at surveymonkey.com/r/OlyParkingStrategy.

The 18-question survey asks participants to rate their downtown parking experiences when it comes to location, difficulty finding a space, walking distance from destination, disabled parking, city-owned lots, enforcement and meter rates.

One question asks whether people would park in a public parking garage. Participants also can provide written suggestions for parking improvement.

Survey results will be forwarded to Berk Consulting, which the city hired to develop a new parking strategy for downtown Olympia. Total cost for the parking strategy project is estimated at $173,500.

The consultant will examine options that include building a public parking garage, parking enforcement and technology, meter fees, partnerships with private lot owners, and installing more parking signage. A public open house is planned in May, and a draft strategy will be presented to the Olympia City Council in June. Specific dates have not been announced yet.

Solutions for downtown parking problems, along with support for a potential parking garage, have been studied and discussed for decades.

A report in The Olympian in 1999 noted that “the city recently hired a Portland consulting firm to look at costs and funding options for a parking garage. It is the third time the city has studied the issue in six years. The most recent study, done in 1996, found it would cost $15 to $45 per square foot to build a parking facility downtown.”

In that same report, a member of a downtown transportation committee was quoted as saying “parking is the deal breaker on downtown office development.”

In 2004, The Olympian reported highlights of a parking study from the Olympia Downtown Association that makes the case for bringing more parking downtown. The study shows that during peak parking hours (10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 5-9 p.m.), parking in the downtown core was at 85 percent to 95 percent capacity. Earlier that year, the ODA had offered a $3 million spending plan for building a downtown parking garage.

In 2007 and 2009, the pursuit of a downtown parking garage was among the top issues for Olympia City Council candidates in local elections.

In 2009, the Olympia City Council approved spending as much as $85,000 on a consultant to find a private developer as a partner for a new municipal parking garage. The goal was to reach an agreement by the end of that year with a developer that would build the garage, which the city would lease and eventually buy. Cost of the garage was estimated between $13 million and $21 million at the time.

By November 2009, the council scrapped that plan because of concerns about cost, and instead voted to focus on expanding surface and on-street parking. The city had selected three potential sites for a parking garage along State Street near the Olympia Transit Center.

A 2015 survey of downtown business owners reported that business owners were concerned that limited parking discourages customers from shopping downtown. The survey also shows support for free street parking and a parking garage.