Downtown Huntsville is quickly becoming a regional destination for people to live, work, play and recreate. It’s exciting to see thousands of new and returning guests visit Downtown restaurants, breweries, boutiques, and experiential retail (like axe-throwing!).
Since we currently aren’t a city with mass transit options like BRT, streetcars, or light rail, this means most people arrive in the city center in a motor vehicle. While an increasing number of guests are using transit options like Uber and Lyft, most of these motor vehicles are personal vehicles driven by the visitor.
This means that the visitor needs to find a place to park the vehicle prior to enjoying everything Downtown has to offer. We’ve heard an increasing number of visitors express concern about Parking Availability with the influx of our growing crowds. While on some occasions availability may be an issue (such as during graduations at the VBC), on the vast majority of days and nights, there is plenty of available parking.
What might be the issue is a Parking Awareness challenge.
With over 5,000 public parking spaces in Downtown, there are lots of parking options (this number doesn’t include the large number of private spaces also available). Unfortunately, if you aren’t aware of an available space, it may seem like that space doesn’t actually exist. In order to increase awareness, here are 3 strategies that we’re working on with our Downtown partners like the City, Von Braun Center, CVB and others.
- Wayfinding signs. In 2015, the CVB took the lead on designing and implementing an extensive new wayfinding sign network in Downtown. These attractive signs provide direction to a variety of Downtown destinations including parking garages. Here’s an article that discusses the program: Signage Plan for Downtown Huntsville. The wayfinding program provides signage for pedestrians walking around Downtown as well as guests arriving in Downtown and looking for parking. Be on the lookout for these specific wayfinding signs that will lead you to Downtown parking garages
2. Safe, interesting, and convenient walks. Did you know that the city parking deck connected to the Downtown BB&T Building (technically known as Garage B) is typically free to use on evenings and weekends? This is a great tip to know because the deck is conveniently located to key Downtown destinations like the Square, Big Spring Park, and the Von Braun Center. One of the City’s most forward-thinking decisions recently was to improve the walking experience in Big Spring Park. By making the walking experience, safer, more attractive, and more convenient, the City made Garage B a fantastic option to use for events at places like Propst Arena. As streetscapes are improved throughout Downtown, the walking experience continues to improve from good to great. This means, in some instances, the closest deck might not always be the most convenient deck. Parking at Garage B often has no lines, is free, and is just a short stroll across the newly-improved Big Spring Park to the VBC and other destinations.
3. Shared Parking Awareness. More and more studies are showing that the overall number of parking spaces is not the actual number of available spaces throughout the day. Does that sound strange if not mathematically impossible? It did to us initially too! Then we discovered more about the concept of Shared Parking. The graphic below (thanks Gensler!) does a good job demonstrating this concept.
The basic premise is that a parking space in a public deck may be used during daytime hours by one type of user (ex: an office employee) but that user only occupies that space for certain hours during the day. When the office user leaves for the day, that space becomes available for an evening or weekend user such as someone attending an event at the Concert Hall. Granted, the office user could leave their car in the space for the full 24 hours but that’s pretty unlikely. As a result, a single space can be used by multiple different users. That’s why its important to try and locate public parking where multiple users during the day and night would find it convenient. This is a key part of the Downtown Master Plan Update and is being considered by the City when deciding where to locate new parking resources.
In other words, just because you see a parking deck may be near capacity during one part of the day, doesn’t mean that it won’t be readily available during another part of the day. Again, this graphic does a really nice job demonstrating how Shared Parking can be an important tool in addressing Parking Availability issues.
These are just a few of the strategies that DHI and our Downtown partners are working hard to advance as we seek to raise Parking Awareness while increasing Parking Availability.