Friday, 20 November 2009 00:00
In 2005, more than 1,000 residents of Port Washington participated in the Community Visioning Process. One of the three issues that generated almost unanimous support was the construction of tiered parking. As a result of that recommendation, the town began its consideration of building a parking garage to address the shortage of parking within Port Washington. That process culminated in a public hearing last May and continued public discussion since then.
As we are all well aware, the proposal, which was to build a two and one-half tiered parking facility at the LIRR station in Port Washington, generated a great deal of debate. It is clear from the letters and emails received, as well as the conversations I have had with people throughout the community, that there is no consensus to support this project. It has been my view from the onset of this process that we cannot move forward with this project without clear community support. On Oct. 30, I advised my colleagues on the town board that I would not support building a garage in Port Washington.
At the same time, it is clear that there is a documented need for additional parking for commuters, merchants and shoppers. Even with today’s economic conditions, commuters have stated they cannot find a parking space after 7:15 a.m. and when the economy ultimately turns around it will quickly revert to 6:30 a.m. I regularly receive complaints from business people that the metered spaces on the street in front of their businesses are occupied all day and not available for their customers.
The lack of parking for shoppers has added to the difficulty landlords face in renting their storefronts. I frequently receive calls from potential tenants asking whether the town has plans to alleviate the shortage of parking for customers. The lack of parking makes it far more difficult for those considering opening a new business in Port Washington.
Suggestions that people should walk or ride a bicycle simply are unrealistic. While some already do so, no amount of effort will significantly increase the number of people who choose this option. If we are going to address this condition, we need to provide additional parking spaces as well as reduce the number of spaces required if that can be achieved.
After carefully considering the numerous suggestions and comments made in response to the current public discussion as well as those made during the Shared Visioning Process, I am recommending that we take a number of steps to address this issue. The highlights of those recommendations are:
A. There is a public perception that a significant number of people who do not live within the Parking District obtain a permit. This needs to be addressed and we need to take steps to tighten the procedures used to assure that only district residents are issued parking permits.
B. We must create additional parking spaces. Various properties have been placed on the market during the last six months that have the potential for use as a parking lot and we need to explore their purchase. Purchasing additional land would provide additional parking spaces at less cost per space than the proposed garage and would likely have no impact on taxes due to bonding opportunities.
In addition to the creation of new lots, we can gain six commuter spaces at the Vanderventer lot by eliminating one-half of the metered spaces now provided. There has not been a demand for these spaces and we can better use them for commuter parking. Finally, we should examine all of the existing parking lots to determine if there is a way of reconfiguring the spaces to increase parking.
C. A shuttle system should be created for commuters. Based on conversations with many commuters over the years as well as the responses to surveys I have done, I believe that a shuttle system that provides service with pick ups at locations within each neighborhood has a good chance for success. The town should bring in a professional transportation engineer to design a shuttle system that would allow the maximum number of people to utilize the service while getting them to the station on time for their trains. The MTA had a shuttle in 1994/1995 that utterly failed because they used one bus, and in order to get people to the station for their train, the route had to be close to the station. This is the opposite of what we should offer.
A professional engineer would be able to advise the optimal number of routes, where the shuttles should run, what hours the service should be available, etc. Once we have accepted a route system we should hire a company to provide the service for two years.
The shuttle would be free to commuters. This is the best way to encourage a significant number of commuters to utilize the service. The expense of this option would require an increase in either parking fees, taxes, or both. The size of these increases would depend on the expense of the service.
D. In order to reduce the demand for spaces, we should encourage people to carpool. We should designate the parking lot on South Maryland Avenue for cars with two or more passengers between the hours of 6 a.m. and 7:15 a.m. The incentive to the commuter would be the $1 per car per day fee being shared by each of the passengers as well as the greater ease of finding a parking spot. The benefit is that every car that uses this option frees up one space for everyone else.
E. In addition to the above steps, I would note that the new lot on Revere Road will create additional spaces for customers of the stores on Port Washington Boulevard. The improvements to the lot off Mertz Plaza, to be made as part of the renovations of the Musso property, will also provide some additional customer parking.