Complaints from some business owners and their customers about a parking shortage in the Janesville downtown would be more credible if the city’s own studies confirmed them.
But these studies, including one released last week, show ample parking availability.
The two sides have vastly different expectations about downtown parking, and those claiming a parking shortage, in our opinion, are being unrealistic.
The Gazette explored this “expectation” issue in last week’s online poll, asking readers how far they’d be willing to walk to their destinations after parking in the downtown.
The results (which are not scientific) highlight a wide gap in expectations. Seventy-three respondents indicated they’re willing to walk “several feet at the most” to their destination. Wow. It’s a mystery how this group shops at all because good luck finding a parking spot near the entrance at Walmart or other big-box stores in Janesville.
Fortunately, the majority of respondents understand the reality of navigating an urban center, with 150 respondents indicating they’re OK walking “up to one city block” and 141 willing to walk as many as two or three blocks. Amazingly, 31 respondents indicated they’d walk “half a mile if necessary.”
The reality is most people traveling to the downtown can find a parking spot within a city block of their destinations. Granted, finding a spot in the downtown was a little easier two years ago, as occupancy rates for parking spaces have risen from 44% in 2017 to 60% this year, according to the city’s latest study.
But 60% doesn’t make a shortage, and parking is still plentiful here compared to some other cities, such as Madison.
To be sure, we do sympathize with business owners dealing with multiple construction projects, including the Milwaukee Street bridge reconstruction. Their frustrations won’t end soon, either, with the city planning to reconstruct several blocks of West Milwaukee Street starting in 2021. Parking availability will remain a hot topic, but it’s important to remember the temporary loss of parking spaces caused by construction won’t affect the downtown’s long-term parking outlook.
The city probably will need to wait until the construction dust settles in 2022 to better understand the downtown’s parking needs. In the meantime, city officials shouldn’t overreact to parking shortage complaints, knowing many of them are grounded in unrealistic expectations. The downtown doesn’t need more parking, at least not until it uses up the parking it already has.