Some Casper residents perceive the city as having a serious shortage of downtown parking, but initial data collected during an ongoing urban parking study indicates this isn’t the case.
Instead of spending millions to create new spots, the city should work to ensure that existing spaces are well managed and fully utilized, said Dennis Burns, a representative with the Kimley-Horn planning and engineering firm. The firm was hired to assess the city’s parking situation.
“You don’t need an additional supply [of parking spaces],” Burns said during the Casper City Council’s Tuesday work session.
Some residents indicated they are reluctant to use the downtown parking garage because they consider it “scary,” he explained. Installing security cameras and improving the lighting might make the garage less intimidating, Burns said. The city could also paint the facility and add artwork to increase its appeal.
The study, which is coordinated by the Casper Area Metropolitan Planning Organization, kicked off two months ago and is expected to conclude in May. Burns told City Council members that he will provide further updates as the study progresses.
Mayor Ray Pacheco said Wednesday that he was pleased by the initial findings.
“We have the parking down there — we just need to figure out the best way to utilize it and manage it, so that is really good news for the city of Casper,” he said.
While the city will work to improve the parking situation, the mayor added that residents also need to adjust to the concept that they won’t always be able to park directly in front of a downtown establishment.
“We aren’t used to parking two or three blocks away to get to a restaurant or shop,” he said, adding that in many other cities this would be standard.
The overall study area covered approximately 8,100 parking spaces, including 1,512 on-street parking spaces, 509 public off-street spaces and 6,079 private off-street spaces, according to a document provided by Metropolitan Planning Supervisor Aaron Kloke.
Kloke previously told the Star-Tribune that locals have been eager to provide feedback on the issue.
“People get really emotionally charged [about parking],” he said, adding that many residents find it upsetting if their preferred spots are taken.
The mobile vendors created controversy when they started routinely parking in the city’s center on Fridays and Saturdays last August. One truck takes up about three parking spots, which has angered some downtown businesses owners who said parking was already too limited.
This has especially created tension between some downtown merchants and the owners of Frontier Brewing Company, who have encouraged the trucks to park in front of the East Second Street brewery.
Shawn Houck, Frontier’s co-owner, told the Star-Tribune last month that he doesn’t understand why the issue is controversial.
“We have a parking garage half a block away,” he said.
But Charlie T’s Pizzeria owner Duane Jensen previously explained that many of his customers dislike the garage and will simply go elsewhere if they can’t find a space by his restaurant.