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December 28, 2012

Rochester commissions Downtown Parking Strategy

By Mary Beth Almond
C & G Staff Writer

ROCHESTER — Ten years ago, the city commissioned a parking study that officials say sat on a shelf and was never used.

This time around, they plan to make sure that won’t happen.

On Dec. 17, the Rochester City Council unanimously approved a professional services agreement with McKenna Associates for a Downtown Parking Strategy report. City officials say the strategy — which will cost the city $27,500 — is phase two in the overall parking strategy for downtown Rochester.

The city invests $80,000-$100,000 of its general fund into the parking system each year, according to City Manager Jaymes Vettraino.

“The question — should we stop that, is that good, how long can we continue that — was not reviewed in 2002. That’s the main question, for administration at least, that started us driving down here. We’ve picked up a lot of other questions, as the snowballs rolled down the hill,” he said.

John Jackson of McKenna Associates, which serves as the city’s planner, said the Downtown Parking Strategy takes the concept of the 2002 parking study to the next level and gives the city additional information.

“We’re calling this a strategic parking plan because, not only are we going to update the quantitative supply and demand number, but we are going to take it to the next level. We’re going to offer different alternatives — in terms of what can we do with the results of the existing parking study, what would the city like to do under different future scenarios based on the master plan, and how can the city fund those alternatives. Let’s say one of the scenarios is we get much more development. How are we going to provide that parking, how are we going to pay for it, how are we going to maintain it, who’s going to build it? Those are the questions that we want to have answers to, as a result of this parking strategy,” he said.

Jackson said the Downtown Parking Strategy will help city officials understand the existing parking conditions, develop a model to predict the adequacy of the parking system, and develop a strategy to manage parking in a sustainable manner for the future.

Vettraino said the 2002 parking study was nothing more than data, adding that the Downtown Parking Strategy will fill in a lot of gaps left in the 2002 study.

“There’s nothing that’s been done to review the parking-exempt zones — since it was created — in a professional, organized way. That’s one gap that will be filled. The second is to review funding and maintaining of the system. That is a gap that wasn’t addressed prior,” he said.

Mayor Stuart Bikson said the study will give the City Council enough information to help it make good decisions on how to handle the city’s parking in the future.

“We think that it’s an important enough issue to spend this money to get information to be effective policy makers,” he said.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Mary Beth Almond at malmond@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1060.