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Parking problem downtown - too much of it

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Posted (edited)

Retail takes many stripes, but let's simply place into two types-- destination and service. Service retail is primarily for the benefit of the residents and offices nearby, and probably where downtown can excel -- drug store, coffee shops, dry cleaning, convenience store, etc. 

 

All other shopping most often requires a massive population nearby, of which will not happen downtown in the near future, or a contiguous strip of retail that has a rational parking layout. Here is where the city can improve.  Long-term, the city needs to expand the contiguous retail corridor beyond just Monroe (BTW, I am glad they disallowed the dentist). 

 

Putting on my suburbanite hat, parking anxiety is primarily generated by two primary factors: ease and transparency of options.

 

Ease can be improved by variable parking rates that ensure convenient parking available is always available. Ease of parking garage can also be improved by removing sign clutter and ensuring that parking garage signage is prominently displayed. Entrances to parking garages should also be retrofitted to signify where the entrance is. In most instances, the parking garage entrance is minimized and uninviting. The design should say "Hey! Park Here!"

 

Regarding transparency, anxiety can be reduced by clearly displaying availability and the price of parking at the garage prior to entering the garage itself.  A variable sign at the entrance saying:

  • Parking Spaces Available: 182
  • Price: 1 Hr Free / $5 per hr after 
  • Credit Cards accepted

provides transparency to a first-time user, so that they know what they are getting prior to turning off the street.  

 

Ultimately, there will need to be a new location downtown that has a contiguous strip of retail. Ionia connecting Fulton and the new market might be the logical location, but it will require ensuring new development provides amenities and diversity beyond bars/restaurants...even if it means saying no from time to time.

Edited by Jippy

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Posted

Retail takes many stripes, but let's simply place into two types-- destination and service. Service retail is primarily for the benefit of the residents and offices nearby, and probably where downtown can excel -- drug store, coffee shops, dry cleaning, convenience store, etc. 

 

All other shopping most often requires a massive population nearby, of which will not happen downtown in the near future, or a contiguous strip of retail that has a rational parking layout. Here is where the city can improve.  Long-term, the city needs to expand the contiguous retail corridor beyond just Monroe (BTW, I am glad they disallowed the dentist). 

 

Putting on my suburbanite hat, parking anxiety is primarily generated by two primary factors: ease and transparency of options.

 

Ease can be improved by variable parking rates that ensure convenient parking available is always available. Ease of parking garage can also be improved by removing sign clutter and ensuring that parking garage signage is prominently displayed. Entrances to parking garages should also be retrofitted to signify where the entrance is. In most instances, the parking garage entrance is minimized and uninviting. The design should say "Hey! Park Here!"

 

Regarding transparency, anxiety can be reduced by clearly displaying availability and the price of parking at the garage prior to entering the garage itself.  A variable sign at the entrance saying:

  • Parking Spaces Available: 182
  • Price: 1 Hr Free / $5 per hr after 
  • Credit Cards accepted

provides transparency to a first-time user, so that they know what they are getting prior to turning off the street.  

 

Ultimately, there will need to be a new location downtown that has a contiguous strip of retail. Ionia connecting Fulton and the new market might be the logical location, but it will require ensuring new development provides amenities and diversity beyond bars/restaurants...even if it means saying no from time to time.

 

 

I do agree that signage could be better. One thing about downtown Chicago, you can see the big obnoxious PARKING or PARK HERE signs from blocks away. I can't even tell you how many people I tell that I park in the Monroe Center ramp for an hour free every day, and they ask "where is that?" These are not stupid people either. I say "it's the ramp above Leo's, you enter next to Louis Benton Steakhouse off of Ionia" Their response: "I had no idea that was parking above Leo's."

 

At least dozen people I know have said that or something similar.

 

It is kind of strange that it's a Monroe Center ramp, but you enter off of Ionia after taking Ottawa and the Louis and then Ionia, and then once you park, you take the stairs down to Ionia, or the stairs down to Ottawa, or maybe if you're lucky you'll find the hallway that leads out to Monroe Center. It should be called the Monroe Center ramp that isn't really on Monroe Center.

 

As I said, if it were a software program, it'd be more of a piece of shit than Facebook is.

 

Add into that the challenge of parallel parking for most people. You have to be somewhat bold because you are actually stopping traffic and actually backing up into traffic. Then you have to fish for coins if you don't use parkmobile. And who keeps coins around anymore? Who even carries cash anymore? And I have to remember correctly, but do the meters even tell you how much time you get for how much money? 1 Quarter equals 1 hour?

 

As some of the commenters said, if your experience with going downtown is in the evenings, you're often confronted with $10 event parking. I won't pay event parking. I purposely will drive around and around until I find a free meter. Call me cheap, but $10 for parking when you're just going out for a $50 dinner is a big percentage. And I'm someone who knows that most of the meters are free after 6:00. I've been asked a ton of times while walking around downtown in the evenings, by people standing at the meter: "Do you know if I have to put money in the meter after 5:00?"

 

Or I'll watch people shovel coins into a meter at 7:00 at night, and I'll say "meters are free after 6:00." And they say "Shoot! It doesn't say that anywhere."

 

Two words: USER UNFRIENDLY

 

I have actually heard from higher ups at the city that, when they schedule business lunches with people who don't work downtown, they hold their meetings out at restaurants in East Hills or Creston or elsewhere, so they don't have to explain where and how to park. Of course, these people won't say these things publicly...

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Posted (edited)

I agree with everything suggested that would make parking more user-friendly.  I hadn't thought of it before, but yeah, the signage could be better.  I remember one time circling around the Monroe Center ramp before I found the entrance.  While coin-fed meters aren't THAT antiquated, I would say it's about time for GR to upgrade its meters with credit card swipes.

 

GRDad not paying $10 for event parking doesn't make him a "cheapskate," it just means he pays the cost of parking in time rather than money.  I'm the kind of person who would just fork over the $10 and be done with it, but that's me.  Whether it's time or money, it's still parking at a cost.

 

That being said, I still believe parking is a minor factor in growing retail downtown.  Downtown parking will always be more challenging (though hardly insurmountable) than at the Mall, more user-friendliness won't change that, and people will always complain about it.  I'm in Los Angeles, and I complain about parking, but I still do it.  People complain about road diets, but they still drive on Division.  When people have somewhere to be, they'll get there.  User-friendly features are better for everyone, but trying to appease the suburban mall mentality espoused by MLive commenters will not give us the downtown we want.

 

Jippy is right-on about "destination" vs. "service" retail, and there's no better illustration than Schuler Books.  People went there for the cafe, not so much for the books.  People seemed to think a downtown Schuler was going to be a destination in and of itself, and that would bring new shoppers from the suburbs to Monroe Center.  But it doesn't work that way.  I'm not buying my coffee at a downtown Biggby when there's another one down the road, and people won't take special trips to go to a distant Schuler when there's one closer.

 

Like Jippy said, "destination" retail needs a nearby population.  I mean, we're working on getting more residents with purchasing power downtown.  We're working on bringing in out-of-town visitors, whether via DeVos Place, Medical Mile, or just business travel.  If we're always going to think of downtown retail as competing with the suburbs for their consumer base, we'll always fail.  Downtown needs its own consumer base, of new residents and out-of-town visitors.  Then we start building a shopping destination.

 

Look at Michigan Avenue.  It requires a densely populated Near North/Lincoln Park neighborhood to sustain it.  People who live near Schaumburg shop in Schaumburg.  Parking doesn't really factor into why people shop at either destination.

Edited by RegalTDP

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Posted

Just came across this from Missoula that seems relevant to the "user-friendly" part of things.

 

http://instagram.com/p/UEnEgiwXFJ/

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And you have people like my wife. Grew up in a small town north of here.  Won't even attempt to parallel park after I showed her the little 1/3 trick to do it. (I can teach :shades: I showed my 16 year old daughter when it came to time for driver's training and she can do it like a pro. :thumbsup:) My wife doesn't like parking ramps even when I am driving. She sure won't use them when she's driving. We enjoy dining at Leo's occasioanlly and she would rather I find a surface lot or on street parking rather than use the ramp above :dunno:

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Posted (edited)

I have an idea. It doesn't really belong in this thread but it does belong to the current conversation. I was thinking, how about not having one giant central police station and creating many small stations (think in the movies, small town station with 16 officers). Have a station in each area i.e. one in heartside, west side, NoMo, etc.. The many stations would promote police presence and walkabaility for the officers. Then have one larger station somewhere that the baddies could be put away for the night. 
Then, try to market the old station to the likes of IKEA or some other large retailer that is not in the area. That would provide an anchor  retailer as well a better police presence in DTGR 

Edited by gvsusean

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I have an idea. It doesn't really belong in this thread but it does belong to the current conversation. I was thinking, how about not having one giant central police station and creating many small stations (think in the movies, small town station with 16 officers). Have a station in each area i.e. one in heartside, west side, NoMo, etc.. The many stations would promote police presence and walkabaility for the officers. Then have one larger station somewhere that the baddies could be put away for the night. 

Then, try to market the old station to the likes of IKEA or some other large retailer that is not in the area. That would provide an anchor  retailer as well a better police presence in DTGR 

 

I thought that a precinct model was proposed several years ago and the idea was panned - don't remember if it was voters or the city commission or what.  Did that really happen or did I just imagine it?

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Posted

I always thought above leos was just police parking till just recently

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I agree with everything suggested that would make parking more user-friendly.  I hadn't thought of it before, but yeah, the signage could be better.  I remember one time circling around the Monroe Center ramp before I found the entrance.  While coin-fed meters aren't THAT antiquated, I would say it's about time for GR to upgrade its meters with credit card swipes.

 

GRDad not paying $10 for event parking doesn't make him a "cheapskate," it just means he pays the cost of parking in time rather than money.  I'm the kind of person who would just fork over the $10 and be done with it, but that's me.  Whether it's time or money, it's still parking at a cost.

 

That being said, I still believe parking is a minor factor in growing retail downtown.  Downtown parking will always be more challenging (though hardly insurmountable) than at the Mall, more user-friendliness won't change that, and people will always complain about it.  I'm in Los Angeles, and I complain about parking, but I still do it.  People complain about road diets, but they still drive on Division.  When people have somewhere to be, they'll get there.  User-friendly features are better for everyone, but trying to appease the suburban mall mentality espoused by MLive commenters will not give us the downtown we want.

 

Jippy is right-on about "destination" vs. "service" retail, and there's no better illustration than Schuler Books.  People went there for the cafe, not so much for the books.  People seemed to think a downtown Schuler was going to be a destination in and of itself, and that would bring new shoppers from the suburbs to Monroe Center.  But it doesn't work that way.  I'm not buying my coffee at a downtown Biggby when there's another one down the road, and people won't take special trips to go to a distant Schuler when there's one closer.

 

Like Jippy said, "destination" retail needs a nearby population.  I mean, we're working on getting more residents with purchasing power downtown.  We're working on bringing in out-of-town visitors, whether via DeVos Place, Medical Mile, or just business travel.  If we're always going to think of downtown retail as competing with the suburbs for their consumer base, we'll always fail.  Downtown needs its own consumer base, of new residents and out-of-town visitors.  Then we start building a shopping destination.

 

Look at Michigan Avenue.  It requires a densely populated Near North/Lincoln Park neighborhood to sustain it.  People who live near Schaumburg shop in Schaumburg.  Parking doesn't really factor into why people shop at either destination.

 

People come from all over the country to shop on Michigan Ave in Chicago. Many people are there for conventions, for business, for tourism. My brother lived on Ohio in River North, and I can tell you, most of the people he knew in River North didn't set foot on Michigan Avenue (too many tourists and people who don't know where they're going, not watching where they're going, looking up at skyscrapers, etc..). Now a lot of downtown Chicago workers and residents go to State St (which is being revitalized with retail) and not Michigan Avenue.

 

Downtown GR is about 6500 residents away from supporting it's own (good) retail environment. That's the general consensus of retail experts (10,000 people needed to support a retail corridor). Hence the downtown residential goal.

 

We'll have to agree to disagree on the $10 event parking.

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Posted

Today I was DT for a brief event, used the Monroe Center structure. Decided to take a look into the parking challenge.

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A video of you walking down the walkway.  Wonderful.  But what's the point of it all?

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People come from all over the country to shop on Michigan Ave in Chicago. Many people are there for conventions, for business, for tourism. My brother lived on Ohio in River North, and I can tell you, most of the people he knew in River North didn't set foot on Michigan Avenue (too many tourists and people who don't know where they're going, not watching where they're going, looking up at skyscrapers, etc..). Now a lot of downtown Chicago workers and residents go to State St (which is being revitalized with retail) and not Michigan Avenue.

 

Downtown GR is about 6500 residents away from supporting it's own (good) retail environment. That's the general consensus of retail experts (10,000 people needed to support a retail corridor). Hence the downtown residential goal.

 

We'll have to agree to disagree on the $10 event parking.

 

OK, maybe that was a bad example, but the point still stands - neither Michigan Ave nor State St are in direct competition with suburban shopping centers for suburban shoppers.  Whether it's tourists on Michigan or townies on State, it's all organic foot traffic.  Likewise, we shouldn't expect downtown GR to compete directly with the malls for their foot traffic, either.  We're on the same page, I'm sure.

 

As for event parking, I guess it's saps like me that allow them to get away with charging $10, huh? :whistling:

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I agree with better signage. Something like the airport has that tells how many spaces are available, price, etc. I'd love to see something that was functional and aesthetically pleasing. Easy to identify, uniquely urban (maybe a nod to yesteryear). 

 

When I was in Singapore, I thought they had brilliant parking ramps. Not only did it tell you the price and quantity of parking available, when you were in the ramp, each parking spot had a red or green light over it indicating whether it was open or occupied. It made parking a breeze as you could immediately see which spots were open as you drove through the ramp. 

 

Joe

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Today I was DT for a brief event, used the Monroe Center structure. Decided to take a look into the parking challenge.

 

You assume that someone would be parked on that floor. If you park on any floor other than the 1st floor, you'd most likely take the stairs or elevator down to the ground floor, where the sign to Monroe Center via that hallway would not be visible.

 

I'm not sure why people continue to fight the "ease of use" theory. It's almost comical. If you make parking any harder, you'd have a trifecta (inferior product, high price, more complicated).

 

I was in Ann Arbor this past week, a place where you would think they'd have a mad hatred for the "common man" and his paltry parking needs and use of the dreaded automobile. Instead, about every 4 parking meters had an e-park machine where you could pay for your meter using a debit card. No need to sign up for a ParkMobile account (you could sign up for e-park if you wanted to, but I was just there for the day and downtown for 2 hours), no need to fish for coins, nothin. You also got a receipt that allowed you to renew your parking at any e-park machine.

 

What would make that system even better would be to ask the user to enter their mobile number, send them a text when parking was almost expired, and allow people to just click "Y" if they wanted to renew. ParkMobile is great, but it makes you wait until your time expires, and you have to call back in to the system to start a new parking session. I actually got a ticket in the 1 minute between sessions and fought it (and won).

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You assume that someone would be parked on that floor. If you park on any floor other than the 1st floor, you'd most likely take the stairs or elevator down to the ground floor, where the sign to Monroe Center via that hallway would not be visible.

...

Nope, that's where I parked. And on a whim decided to follow the heated walkway.

 

Shared this on The Salon on FB, and Kris "liked" it. Maybe the angry/helpless suburbanites (present company excepted) could benefit from how-to vids. Here's how to get yourself DT. Here's how to go exploring. Shortcuts revealed, unknown to drivers! See, it's fun, and stop whining about panhandlers spoiling your ice rink experience.

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As I stated in the Schuler's thread, especially in a foreign environment people will be too distracted to notise most signs.  One pretty much has to put a sign directly in their face for anyone to become aware.  Add to that, most people don't like to read.. even in the age of the internet.  (A frequent problem with computer troubleshooting is people will complain of getting an error, and when asked what that one-sentence error message was, will respond with "I don't know, I didn't read it.")  Perhaps a short voice clip, when getting the parking receipt when entering, informing them of the ramp to Monroe Center, would be helpful.

Of course, the first part of the problem is raising awareness of the parking itself.  Bigger signage, and more of it.  People aren't going to find out about it if the only signs for it are right where it already is.  Have a big sign at the end of the offramp onto Oakes.  "First Hour Free Parking -->"  ("Free 1hr Parking" might make some think they simply can't park there more than an hour.)  Another big sign at Oakes and Ionia.  "<-- First Hour Free Parking."  Give it some unique icon on the sign as well, so people don't get confused and think it's that Ellis surface lot off Ionia, and then get upset when they don't receive their first hour.

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Nope, that's where I parked. And on a whim decided to follow the heated walkway.

 

Shared this on The Salon on FB, and Kris "liked" it. Maybe the angry/helpless suburbanites (present company excepted) could benefit from how-to vids. Here's how to get yourself DT. Here's how to go exploring. Shortcuts revealed, unknown to drivers! See, it's fun, and stop whining about panhandlers spoiling your ice rink experience.

 

That's what I meant, you parked on that particular floor.

 

I would say that posting something on the Salon is the same as preaching to the choir.

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Nope, that's where I parked. And on a whim decided to follow the heated walkway.

 

Shared this on The Salon on FB, and Kris "liked" it. Maybe the angry/helpless suburbanites (present company excepted) could benefit from how-to vids. Here's how to get yourself DT. Here's how to go exploring. Shortcuts revealed, unknown to drivers! See, it's fun, and stop whining about panhandlers spoiling your ice rink experience.

 

Needing a how-to video to find an exit on a parking ramp or to find a parking ramp seems pretty backwards.  If it were properly designed/signed so that it was easy to use in the first place, you wouldn't need a how-to.  People don't want to bother with that and they simply WON'T do it.  

 

The reason the iPhone and iPad are so popular is because they are so intuitive that you don't need a how-to video to use them.  You just use them and they work.

 

Just because there's not plentiful surface parking and parking isn't free doesn't mean it should be difficult to use or find.  I think trying to offer a good customer service experience should be a goal of Parking Services no matter what and would be a good step in improving the experience of downtown visitors who need/choose to drive.

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Needing a how-to video to find an exit on a parking ramp or to find a parking ramp seems pretty backwards.  If it were properly designed/signed so that it was easy to use in the first place, you wouldn't need a how-to.  People don't want to bother with that and they simply WON'T do it.  

 

The reason the iPhone and iPad are so popular is because they are so intuitive that you don't need a how-to video to use them.  You just use them and they work.

 

Just because there's not plentiful surface parking and parking isn't free doesn't mean it should be difficult to use or find.  I think trying to offer a good customer service experience should be a goal of Parking Services no matter what and would be a good step in improving the experience of downtown visitors who need/choose to drive.

 

Speaking of cell phones, that's what I used to create this masterpiece. Having never before parked & walked to Schuler's, on a whim I decided to document this part of the process. (I could have traveled home and returned with my hi-vis camera...and shot video from every possible parking level...and spent a lot more time on it...but that's not my job.) Heading towards the ramp from Ionia, I noticed a dearth of information to indicate that was a parking deck, the first hour is free, and the entrance is here...but I don't shoot vids while motoring.

 

Maybe TPTB follow The Salon. Maybe a parking commissioner would suggest this to Parking Services/DDA. Maybe someone will add an informative video to the information stream. One of my own MLive replies involved the concept of viewing a destination in Streetview, taking a look at the building or approach, figuring out where you are heading (that's before starting to search for the car keys). That's why I concluded my shoot by panning towards that pesky GRAM (the building that's "in the way") and the Madcap intersection.

 

The Rapid released a video explaining how to load a bicycle onto a bus's front rack. Clueless stubborn angry uninformed suburbanites playing the "don't know how to park DT" card: can be addressed.

 

Speaking of The Rapid, Peter Varga hit the "like" button.

 

When I was at the city, part of the wayfinding signage included those round maps on the walls in the parking structures. (They are attached with the clips you'd use to hang a mirror, and the one closest to the Schuler crossing had been turned sideways. I fixed it.) Still remember the then-department head telling the graphic artist to send the sign out for finishing. "Parking is in the red; they can afford it. If we spend your time doing this, it's costing us."

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Speaking of cell phones, that's what I used to create this masterpiece. Having never before parked & walked to Schuler's, on a whim I decided to document this part of the process. (I could have traveled home and returned with my hi-vis camera...and shot video from every possible parking level...and spent a lot more time on it...but that's not my job.) Heading towards the ramp from Ionia, I noticed a dearth of information to indicate that was a parking deck, the first hour is free, and the entrance is here...but I don't shoot vids while motoring.

 

Maybe TPTB follow The Salon. Maybe a parking commissioner would suggest this to Parking Services/DDA. Maybe someone will add an informative video to the information stream. One of my own MLive replies involved the concept of viewing a destination in Streetview, taking a look at the building or approach, figuring out where you are heading (that's before starting to search for the car keys). That's why I concluded my shoot by panning towards that pesky GRAM (the building that's "in the way") and the Madcap intersection.

 

The Rapid released a video explaining how to load a bicycle onto a bus's front rack. Clueless stubborn angry uninformed suburbanites playing the "don't know how to park DT" card: can be addressed.

 

Speaking of The Rapid, Peter Varga hit the "like" button.

 

When I was at the city, part of the wayfinding signage included those round maps on the walls in the parking structures. (They are attached with the clips you'd use to hang a mirror, and the one closest to the Schuler crossing had been turned sideways. I fixed it.) Still remember the then-department head telling the graphic artist to send the sign out for finishing. "Parking is in the red; they can afford it. If we spend your time doing this, it's costing us."

 

I wish you would drop the "suburbanite" vernacular. Anyone outside of a mile from downtown pretty much drives there and doesn't walk. It's not just people who exist outside of a magical line in space on the edge of the city legal (metes and bounds) boundary.

 

The experiment was a good start, but what you should have done is "pretend like you don't know where the Monroe Center ramp or Schuler's are." Try that experiment and videotape it. But first, figure out which highway exit to get off of to get downtown to your destination, Monroe Center. Do you take Pearl, Ottawa, College, Market? Or are you coming in via Fulton or Division? Then try to find Schuler's (which most people would probably do first, pinpoint their destination), and then subsequently try to find a parking spot nearby.

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The old city ramps (all demolished) were obviously parking ramps with open areas at ground level in place of windows. They also had 2 story high signs that spelled "PARK" vertically, green letters on a white background. One had no trouble picking out where the ramps were. Todays downtown wayfinding signs while pedestrian friendly have fonts way too small for a motorist. The ramps are built to resemble storefronts so they don't stand out. (I'm not suggesting going back to the old designs but today's signage is poor). Replacing the current ramp signs with a big "P" would help.

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This is a city not an amusement park. Tourist should research where they're going before hand and people from GR who cant find a parking ramp shouldn't be driving in the first place. Any street you turn down has parking on it... The whole idea that it is difficult is preposterous.

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Anytime you deploy the word "should [do something]", you have instantly lost a significant percentage of your potential market. People should also eat and drink less, exercise more, and procrastinate less often. For events with big draw, then folks will go downtown despite the inconvenience. However, if it is a marginal decision for what to eat or where to shop, then significant share of the market will choose to get elsewhere if they perceive the environment to be intimidating.

 

I would say there are two paths to follow: one make parking much easier to navigate and understand (signage with rates/availability/directions). Two, become a regional draw and people will want to be where the action is.  Hopefully we could do a bit of both. 

 

This is a city not an amusement park. Tourist should research where they're going before hand and people from GR who cant find a parking ramp shouldn't be driving in the first place. Any street you turn down has parking on it... The whole idea that it is difficult is preposterous.

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This is a city not an amusement park. Tourist should research where they're going before hand and people from GR who cant find a parking ramp shouldn't be driving in the first place. Any street you turn down has parking on it... The whole idea that it is difficult is preposterous.

 

Hardly preposterous. Anyone else remember the Arts and Entertainment Study that the DDA did back in 2005 or 06? They surveyed people downtown and people not downtown and asked them why they don't shop downtown more often. I can distinctly remember the top answers were all about parking: Parking, more parking, more convenient parking, cheaper parking.

 

Ha, I found it. It still lives on the DDA's site:

 

http://grcity.us/design-and-development-services/Planning-Department/Documents/1559_DDA_Commercial%20Market%20Analysis%20-%20Downtown%20Grand%20Rapids.pdf

 

Don't get me wrong, the last thing downtown needs is MORE parking. I agree, there is already too much parking. Most of the ramps aren't even full during the day.

 

Also keep in mind that most of the people who visit retailers during the day are Moms or Dads home with the kids, or retirees. Most of the rest of the world is working. You have to see the world through their lens. Evenings and weekends it seems like downtown is pretty much closed up.

 

Even in Ann Arbor, yes they had credit card machines for the parking meters, but the meters were pretty much all taken in the area I was heading to. I then found a surface lot owned by the city, but had to circle 3 blocks because of the one-way streets to find the entrance to the damn thing.

 

 

I've heard that several board members of the Downtown Market are concerned about parking during the busy season/weekends.

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