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Council, Consultants Take the Slow Ride Toward Solving Downtown Dallas's Parking Problems

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As we're well aware of the Friends of Unfair Park's thoughts on parking in downtown Dallas, we attended yesterday's meeting of the council's Transportation and Environment Committee, drawn like moths to the Downtown Dallas Parking Strategic Plan presentation on the agenda. And Chris Beynon, the familiar face of MIG and chief proselytizer for the Downtown Dallas 360 plan, presented it with such vigor it felt quite ... important, let's say. Exciting, even.

He presented a "dynamic flexible model" of parking in downtown Dallas with "dynamic pricing" as part of the "action oriented framework" of the 360 plan. Council members' eyes twinkled and teared up at the thought of parking downtown without trying to find a parking garage or scrounging under the mat for a fallen quarter ... or several dollars' worth, even for a brief stay.

"This really is an exciting plan in my opinion," said Linda Koop, the committee's chair. Alas: It was all sizzle. Specifics remain sparse.

"Today we wanted to give you a broad overview," said Theresa O'Donnell, director of Sustainable Development and Construction. The overview consisted of such items as iPhone apps that would help locate vacant spaces, parking with pricing according to time of day and availability and the possibility of waiving parking tickets for first-time offenders.

The study identified that downtown parking has a bigger problem with accessibility than availability. Generally, there is sufficient parking, but utilizing it can be a confusing, cumbersome experience (in case you haven't noticed). Clear signage for available parking is another part of the overall plan. Then there's the long-shot possibility of ditching meters entirely.

The Downtown Dallas Parking Strategic Plan, as you'll no doubt recall, was developed as an outgrowth from the 360 plan as parking became an increasingly more vexing issue at city meetings. "Any vibrant city must have a vibrant downtown, and this is certainly part of that," council member Vonciel Jones Hill said at yesterday's briefing. Beynon stressed the connection between parking development and economic development. He said that if parking needs are met conveniently, people will utilize businesses downtown, and spend more time and money in the area. 

John Crawford, CEO of Downtown Dallas, Inc., told Unfair Park Monday afternoon that while it won't all happen tomorrow, it will take place gradually over the course of several years.

"I have to say that many people think that parking is more of an impediment than an amenity to downtown, and that's what we're trying to change," Crawford said. With that, the plan also mentions the possibility of an "18-month initial parking program advertising campaign to change perceptions."

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