For the first time since the late ’90s, the city of Charleston is planning on taking a serious look at parking on the peninsula.
City staff are currently preparing guidelines for a proposed study aimed at providing a comprehensive assessment of parking in the downtown area, according to Josh Martin, senior advisor to Mayor John Tecklenburg. A draft of the issues to be examined include parking pricing, a complete inventory of downtown parking spaces, and parking policies related to hospitality and restaurant workers. Once the scope of the study is finalized and approved, city officials will then begin taking bids on the cost of the project. Martin says that funding for the project will come from the $350,000 set aside in the city budget for developing a transportation plan and parking study. If approved, Martin expects the study to be completed by the end of the year.
Martin first described the proposed study during last week’s meeting of the city Planning Commission, which is set to discuss proposed amendments to the list of criteria considered when approving new hotel development on the peninsula. Among those considerations are requiring developers within the city’s Accommodations Overlay Zone to account for the number of employees who drive to work and where these workers will be expected to park. Previous recommendations include requiring owners to provide some form of transit passes or other incentives to encourage employees to use public transportation.
According to the 2016 Peninsula Hotel Study released by the city, hospitality and food and bev workers account for 34 percent of the workforce in the Charleston metropolitan area. Unfortunately, many of these employees have voiced their frustrations over the lack of sufficient parking for those who commute downtown for work. Since the last major assessment of parking on the peninsula in 1998, almost 1,700 new hotel rooms have been added on the peninsula.
In addition to a look at park-and-ride options on and off of the peninsula, the proposed parking study will also examine parking meter policies and compare on-street parking prices versus parking garage rates. During last week’s Planning Commission meeting, Martin explained that pricier on-street parking is used in a majority of cities to encourage drivers to utilize parking garages.
According to the most recent city budget, parking facilities generate 81 percent of the city’s enterprise fund revenue. This includes the 13 parking garages and 14 lots owned or operated by the city. In total, parking revenue is estimated to surpass $24.6 million for the city in 2017, including $96,000 for residential parking permits, more than $1.5 million from parking meters, and more than $3 million from parking violations and expired meters.