Most everyone needs to park.
But how they park — and how Casper facilitates that parking — is less certain. Instead, city planner Aaron Kloke told City Council last week, those decisions are generally based on interpreting data.
To set parking requirements, the city needs to know how many people are traveling to which parts of town and when. They need to know what the demand is and ensure the supply of public parking is appropriate.
“Our parking regulations citywide are just bad, and they’re based on bad information,” Kloke said in an interview.
Specifically, Kloke wrote in a memo to Council, the city has an oversupply of parking at big box stores and an undersupply at many local restaurants. That matters in part because when zoning rules require developers to install a minimum number of parking spaces, land that could otherwise be put toward productive — and taxable — use, instead often sits empty.
With new bars and restaurants preparing to open downtown in the coming months and burgeoning development in the Old Yellowstone District, questions about parking in central Casper are likely to escalate. But the last study of parking in the area was conducted almost 20 years ago.
So last week, Casper City Council approved an $80,000 downtown parking study. The city will pay $7,000, with the remainder to be funded by a federal grant made to the regional Metropolitan Planning Organization.
Councilman Bob Hopkins suggested that it would be better for any parking study to wait until the state of Wyoming had completed its office building in the Old Yellowstone District and determined whether to allow the public to park in its downtown parking lot during the evenings.
“I’d like to at least consider reserving some of that funding,” Hopkins said.
But MPO Administrative Technician Pamela Jones explained the grant must be spent this fiscal year and used for transportation-related purposes or it would have to be returned to the MPO, which could then allocate it to another town in the area.
Council chose for the study to focus on central Casper rather than the entire city because the amount of money available was not sufficient to fund two studies, and Kloke argued that solving parking issues downtown was more pressing.
Kloke said the study would likely be completed within 12 months.