City Hall, City Planners Want to Take a Long, Hard Look at Downtown Parking Problems

I see here that on Tuesday, the city council's Economic Development Committee has on its agenda a proposed downtown parking study. Since City Hall's more or less closed between now and Tuesday (for, in order, a All-Star snow day, a furlough day and President's Day), and since the briefing docs have yet to be posted, I called DowntownDallas president John Crawford to see what's what.

Essentially, he says, this is an addendum to the Downtown Dallas 360 plan that's due to the city council in July or August. Crawford says that "after some initial conversations with downtown stakeholders," it was decided that MIG -- the firm to which the city's paying $515,000 for the new downtown master plan -- needed to put more emphasis on downtown parking. Problem is, Crawford says, that wasn't a significant piece of the original plan, and so money will need to be shifted from the city's parks program to cover the costs of a downtown parking study. How much money? "We're not sure yet," he says.

Parking, though, goes "hand in glove in terms of what they're trying to do" with Downtown Dallas 360, he tells Unfair Park.

"Parking, as we've gone through this process, continues to raise its head as a critical and important issue, and we want to make sure we take the time to touch every base to find the best route to a better solution," Crawford says. "It's not complicated. Hell, everybody likes to talk about parking and has an opinion. It's one of those subjects everybody's concerned about but not everybody knows a lot about because there are so many moving pieces."

I ask him why this wasn't covered in the initial deal with MIG. To which Crawford responds, "It was looked at at the beginning and all through the process, but what has been uncovered and when you get into a study is, it's like peeling an onion. There are just so many layers, and we determined, as we talked to stakeholders, we needed to make sure that particular area was covered more than what was provided for in the initial [request for proposals]. It wasn't that parking wasn't on the dance card, but as we got into this and thought about connectivity, it was pretty obvious that area needs more attention."

Maybe you recall: Last time I spoke with Crawford about downtown parking, it was due to the number of complaints from folks who'd been improperly booted by parking-lot operators. That issue was taken care of by council yesterday; no more booting without paper receipts begins tonight, matter of fact. Crawford and I also got into what's become a familiar question: Why no free parking downtown?

He says that's something that'll be addressed in this study, should council gives its OK to shift money around, among other things.

"We'll look at cost of parking, the number of parking spaces, where it should be," he says. "For example, if we put in a streetcar -- not if but when -- where it runs dictates what kind of parking there will be and where it might be. Those kind of things are important. There are a huge number of issues: valet, on-street, parking garages, where they should be, who should pay for them. It's a pretty broad subject as you start drilling into it, and as we got into the mission we determined we needed to drill into it even further."

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Robert Wilonsky
Contact: Robert Wilonsky