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No need for more meters, parking deck, consultants tell council

Parking consultants recommended the city replace blue parking signs with Hendersonville-branded signs. Parking consultants recommended the city replace blue parking signs with Hendersonville-branded signs.

Downtown Hendersonville does not need a parking deck, more parking meters or a big investment in parking technology to solve the Main Street parking shortage, a new study says.

Instead, the city can solve most of its Main Street parking shortage with greater awareness parking rules, consistent parking enforcement, costlier parking tickets and flexible use of public parking lots for reserved parking, employee parking and visitor parking.
"I would hate to see you go out and spend $1 million on technology or spend tens of millions on a parking deck when you really don't need to and our expert opinion is you really don't need to," Julie Dixon, of Dixon Parking Unlimited, told the Hendersonville City Council on Friday during an all-day budget and planning retreat.
For less than $100,000, the city could make changes designed to move cars off Main Street and into public lots one or two blocks off Main Street, the consultants said. If the city makes sure that residents, business owners, employees and tourists know the parking rules, increases the penalties for parking violations, puts up better signage and deploys "parking ambassadors" as guides during peak season, the city could probably lower its Main Street parking space usage from the current rate of 90-100 percent to the recommended optimum efficiency of 80 percent of capacity, the consultants said.

The consultants recommended that the city:

  • Create a reserved parking R permit for 24-7 access to city parking lots, keeping the current monthly rate of $30 at least for current permit holders, possibly increasing the rate for new applicants. Instead of marked spaces, the R permit holders would be entitled to park anywhere in the public lot.
  • Create an S permit for employees. At $10 a month, the placard permit could be bought by a business owner and rotated among employees. If a restaurant had 10 cooks and service employees, it could be buy the permits and let employees use them. The aim would be to get employees' cars off Main Street. S-permit holders would be able to park in the Dogwood lot between Fourth and Fifth avenues and Church and Washington streets.
  • Replace parking meters with kiosks that would take credit card payments. Industrywise, accepting credit card payments increases revenue by 10 to 30 percent, consultant Dave Cooker said.
  • Hire part-time "parking ambassadors" to help people find parking, restrooms and other destinations. Clad in polo shirts and khakis, the ambassadors would explain parking rules, give out maps and brochures and generally serve as guides for visitors, especially tourists during peak season.
  • Install wayfinding signs to point the way to parking, restrooms, the downtown theater, stores and offices. Although the city installed new signs with the big blue P, the city and the county Tourism Development Authority are currently working on a comprehensive branding and wayfinding signage effort for countywide implementation. The consultants recommended that the city use its "H" logo as brand throughout downtown to point visitors to parking and other destinations. (A good example of useful and visible wayfinding signs is Greenville's downtown, Dixon and Cooker said.)
  • Increase the penalty for overtime parking. The current fine of $10 is low enough that some shopkeepers and downtown employees are willing to risk a ticket rather than walk two blocks to work or pay for a monthly permit, Dixon said. The city should increase the financial pain for overtime parking, she said, if it wants to get results.

Although they expressed support for the consultant's recommendations, council members took no immediate action on the ideas. They're expected to take them up as they continue budget-drafting deliberations over the next three months.