Parking study data presented; public comment encouraged

The good news is crime is down

By Kate A. Hallock
Resident Community News

With just days to go on the clock, the Parking Study Steering Committee squeezed two town hall meetings in under the wire. The goal to finish the study, as stated in the May 2 committee meeting, was Sept. 30.

On Monday, Sept. 23 the Steering Committee, chaired by Kay Ehas, presented its findings to a small crowd of merchants and residents in the Park and King Streets corridor and then again on Tuesday, Sept. 24 to a similar group concerned with parking issues in The Shoppes of Avondale. Of the 50 or so who attended each night, approximately one-fourth included committee members and city representatives.

District 14 Councilman Jim Love kicked off the Park and King public meeting.

“Parking is not an easy problem and it all has to do with safety and it has to do with business,” he said. “We’re going to talk about data today; you can’t make a good decision without good data.”

That data was presented by Ehas, Susan Fraser, a land use consultant on the committee, Zone 4 Commander Assistant Chief Patrick Ivey, and Ghyabi and Associates’ project consultant Martha Moore.

According to Ehas, the parking study began with Avondale residents and merchants concerned about Mellow Mushroom coming to The Shoppes of Avondale and the parking demand it would need when there wasn’t enough parking already. Said Ehas, “To Jim Love’s credit, he said ‘If we’re going to do a parking study we need to include Park and King because they’re expressing the same issues as The Shoppes of Avondale.’”

The goal of the study was to “establish a parking program that manages existing demand and anticipates future demand to maintain a vibrant neighborhood commercial district while addressing the existing negative impact of non-residential parking on the quality of life of residents in the study areas.”

Fraser described the problems which were identified during a series of meetings all summer long. They include vehicles parking off the pavement, on the grass, blocking the sidewalk; limited sight visibility at intersections; vehicles blocking driveways; emergency vehicle access blocked; no enforcement of signs that limit parking; trash; cars circling and speeding through neighborhoods in search of parking; cars abruptly stopping traffic waiting for a parking spot to become available; disrupting the peace after 10 p.m. with loud talking, arguments; fights in residential front yards; and not enough parking for residents, their visitors and patrons at the nearby shops, restaurants and bars.

Data and more data

Moore presented the data which identified the supply, both on- and off-street. In the Park and King corridor, there are 246 marked commercial spaces and 977 unmarked spaces on street, with 800 private lot spaces off street and 44 spaces in nearby alleys.

In Avondale, the street survey found 167 marked spaces and 687 unmarked on street, with 81 spaces in private lots and 112 in alleys.

As it was noted that access for emergency vehicles was a problem, requiring a 15-foot wide clearance to open doors and bays, there were nine streets in each study area that were thought to be potentially in jeopardy of having the required clearance. On Park and King, those streets included portions of Acosta, Barrs, College, Downing, Frederica, Green, James, Sydney and West, while in Avondale they included Dancy, Edgewood, Hedrick, Ingleside, Oak, Pine, Riverside, Talbot and Van Wert.

As one astute meeting attendee noted, if so determined in the solution phase, those streets may lose one or both sides of on-street parking to allow emergency vehicle access, which could be bad news for residents who park on the street.

Surveys of occupancy of marked commercial spaces were conducted on a Wednesday, Friday and Saturday during lunch (11a .m. to 1 p.m.), dinner (5:30 to 8:30 p.m.) and late night (10 p.m. to 1 a.m.) hours. Consultants walked the study areas in 30-minute increments, taking note of the length of time vehicles occupied a space.

In both study areas, the committee found that on Fridays and Saturdays, approximately one third of the spaces were occupied by the same car from dinner through the late night hours. Though not proven, it was stated that those vehicles may have belonged to employees of the nearby businesses.

During the lunch hours along Park and King, designated parking was always available, however not always right at the front door of the business. During the dinner hour, parking was busiest from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. and Friday was busier than Saturday night. Saturday was busiest for late night hours, especially along King Street. It was also determined that 60 percent of patrons frequenting the businesses lived outside of the Park and King area; of the 40 percent who did live within the area, only 10 percent of those walked to a retail shop, restaurant or bar.

In the Shoppes corridor on St. Johns Avenue, on-street parking was heaviest during lunch (noon – 1 p.m.) and dinner (6:30 – 7:30 p.m.) hours. Late night parking was determined to not be a problem except on weekends near the West Inn Cantina and Casbah Café.

Crime statistics were provided by Officer Ivey. He noted that in the Park and King corridor crime has decreased and changed during a 12-month period of August 2012 to August 2013, when measured against statistics from the same period in 2005-2006.

The number of calls decreased by 34% (from 4600 in 2005-2006 to 3040 in 2012-2013); the peaks changed from Wednesdays to Fridays and from 2 p.m. to 11 p.m. According to Ivey, the change in the Park and King neighborhood has impacted the number and type of calls to the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office. There are more nuisance issue calls than for burglaries (less than 2 percent of the calls), robberies and other violent crimes.

In Avondale, the number of incident calls had decreased by 22% (from 858 in 2005-2006 to 670 in 2012-2013). The most prevalent type of call is burglary alarm incidents and the peaks of incident calls changed from Tuesdays to Sundays, with 4 p.m. the peak time for calls in 2012-2013.
NEXT STEPS

The steering committee’s next step is to determine possible solutions that will improve enforcement of parking laws on residential streets; educate business patrons about available parking or valet services; maximize use of existing spaces; address inappropriate behavior on residential streets, and improve other forms of access by bicycle, pedestrian and mass transit.

Residents and business owners were encouraged to share additional concerns and any solutions they might have to ensure that emergency access is maintained; owner and service access is protected; residential quality of life is respected; business demand is managed to provide safe, adequate parking options; and enhanced access and increased mobility options to commercial districts is provided for customers, visitors and residents.
The presentations for each study can be found at www.coj.net/departments/planning-and-development/community-planning-division/transportation-planning/riverside-avondale-area-parking-steering-committee.aspx.

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