City conducts survey in developing master plan for downtown parking
Merchants speak out about enforcement, difficulty finding spaces
Many parking spaces were taken on West Washington Street in downtown Hagerstown on Thursday. (By Ric Dugan/Staff Photographer)
The city chose Rich & Associates Inc., a consultant and planning company from Southfield, Mich., to oversee the plan.
The survey, which will be conducted online only, is a way for people who live and work in Hagerstown, or who visit, to get involved, said Eric Deike, manager of Hagerstown’s Public Works Department.
The survey has several options for all types of downtown users, such as business or property owners, employees, residents, frequent customers and visitors, University System of Maryland at Hagerstown students, out-of-town visitors and infrequent visitors.
Focusing on the areas with parking decks, lots and on-street spaces, the survey asks questions such as how frequently people visit the downtown area, where they go and where they park. It also asks for suggestions of how to improve the parking system, as well as thoughts on costs and enforcement.
“What we’re trying to do is find out a realistic idea about our parking system,” Deike said Thursday. “Is it adequate? Is it adequate for the next economic boom, should it get here? The time to get prepared for that is now.”
Some business owners said they consider the biggest issue to be better enforcement of metered on-street parking.
“I want to see them enforcing the parking,” said Kelly Renner, owner of Carol & Co. at 25 W. Washington St.
Renner said her customers have been having a difficult time finding on-street parking since May. Several employees of nearby businesses use metered parking while working, Renner said.
“I want people who work downtown to not be allowed to park at the meters all day long,” Renner said. “They should be required to park in the garage or parking supplied by their employer. They should not be parked on the street at the meters.”
Renner said she often sees the same people parked in spaces near her shop come out and put money in the meters throughout the day, or just move their vehicle a few spots away to avoid ticketing.
Chris Grossnickle, owner of Brickyard Grill at 15 W. Washington St., said he has spoken with city officials and they know his stance.
Grossnickle said he would like to see more available spaces for people who want to stop for a quick bite to eat or do a little shopping.
Sheila Faulkner of Boonsboro was shopping Thursday morning and found a parking spot in front of Carol & Co. She said it’s always difficult to find parking in that area and she sometimes has to circle the block several times until a spot comes open.
“Sometimes I just give up and leave,” Faulkner said. “I was so excited when I saw this spot. That never happens.”
Rachel Fox and Jenni Jones, managers at The Potomac Bead Co. at 53 W. Washington St., said the No. 1 complaint they hear from customers is that it’s hard to find nearby parking.
“It’s hard for them to find spaces,” Fox said. “I think the garages are a great idea.”
Fox said free parking on Saturdays boosts business and on-street spots are more plentiful.
She said if metered rates cannot be reduced, then she would like them to stay the same.