The following Letter to the Editor was submitted by the Mayor's Office:
"The City of Salem is in the midst of implementing several changes to downtown parking as part of a comprehensive plan that was developed, reviewed and recommended by both the City Council/Mayor and a collective group of downtown stakeholders, including residents, business owners, tourist attractions, patrons, downtown employees, etc. The recommendations started with a foundation of data about how many parking spaces exist in downtown Salem; how well spaces are utilized throughout the day; an inventory of the myriad of parking rules, regulations and costs that exist with respect to our parking structure and a survey/questionnaire regarding parking needs and wants. I should also note there were more than 2 dozen public meetings and presentations about the new parking regulations, not to mention some very well attended Council meetings on the subject.
The data showed that we have excess parking capacity, but it is largely in garages and/or on the outskirts of the central business district, making it less desirable to the many people who shop, work, eat or visit downtown. The downtown stakeholder group working on improving parking set a goal to try and achieve 15% availability for on-street parking downtown or essentially one space per block. There are several strategies that are being implemented to try and achieve that goal, including the addition of meters in on-street locations that previously did not have meters. The plan is comprehensive and will also substantially decrease the cost of parking in city garages, add long term parking to Riley Plaza, and increase meter fees in peak locations to encourage long term parkers to use garages and other lower cost parking options, to name a few of the approved changes.
As the work on new meters has begun, I have heard from some business owners who are concerned about the plan and have requested that action be taken to limit new meters. The City understands the concerns expressed and plans to work to address all of them in a number of ways. At present, we have a hodgepodge of parking arrangements largely because we haven’t looked at the parking system in a comprehensive manner. This plan does that and gives our downtown parking some structure and order. The implementation roll out has an education component for users, as well as a built in evaluation after 90 days.
After the 90 day review period, the City intends to review the plan as implemented to determine if the new parking regulations are working as desired and, if they are not how best to make modifications so that they are. We are also taking a longer look at certain areas of the downtown where meters are planned for installation that do not have them now, like the area surrounding Steve’s Market, to make sure that it is warranted.
The overall goal is to improve parking availability in downtown. To accomplish this, the parking system will use relative pricing to help balance the utilization. For example, the garages and lots will be priced less than the adjacent on-street spaces, and the underutilized waterfront garage will be priced less than everything else.
Throughout our process, we solicited input from many residents, organizations and other stakeholders. This doesn’t mean every issue was addressed or every suggestion was adopted. We are still seeking input and we very much value it. Please feel free to share opinions or comments at firstname.lastname@example.org."
Chief Administrative Aide