Audit: York City has parking, but people don't use it

Sean Philip Cotter

The two women who were operating The Watchmaker's Daughter on Friday afternoon hear often about parking complaints.

It's usually older folks, noting that there aren't on-street parking spots available outside the boutique jewelry store in downtown York City, especially handicapped ones.

That's true, say Ketti Reptsik and Monica Johnson from behind the counter at 22 N. Beaver St., but it's not the whole story — there's a great deal of parking in lots and garages around the area, but most of their customers just want a spot right outside the store so they can briefly pop in and then go.

"'There's no parking right now out there,' we hear," Johnson said.

An audit of York City's parking system has found that there's plenty of public parking to be had around the downtown area, but it's not marked or communicated well, according to Desman Design, the company the city contracted for the audit at a price tag of $85,000. Parking problems downtown are a perception rather than a reality, the audit continued, also in part because the metered spaces in the immediate downtown area often are always full with people parked there for extended amounts of time.

Last week, Desman issued its first of a series of memos about the state of parking in the city, focusing on cataloging the supply and demand for parking downtown.

The East Market Street garage.

Results: The audit, which focused on the city's central business district, counted 792 spots within that downtown area, of which 113 were not metered. Among city and privately owned but publicly accessible garages and lots, there are 2,424 off-street parking spots in or near the downtown area.

And most of those aren't used, according to the audit, which charted use of all the facilities between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. on Thursday, March 31, and between 10 a.m. and 7 p.m on Friday, April 1.

On those days, the on-street spots were never more than 56 percent full, and the off-street parking was never more than 45 percent full, it says, with the busiest times coming between noon and 2 p.m.

From that data as well as conversations with residents and city officials, Desman has drawn the conclusion that there's parking to be had, though people get discouraged by the fact that the highest-trafficked areas around the main square don't have much metered parking available.

The city's meters are operated by the City of York General Authority, which charges $1 an hour to park at them. The general authority owns and operates the public lots and garages in the city, which cost $2.50 an hour to park in.

Desman notes that disparity at the end of the report, but doesn't make any recommendation on it at this point.

What's next for York City parking?

Pam Zerba, the chair of the city's general authority, tried about a year and a half ago to persuade the city council to let the authority raise the rates on the meters. The idea was to raise the rates for on-street parking and lower it for off-street parking, so people who are planning to park for longer periods of time will go to the garages and lots and the metered spots will have more turnover, making it easier for people making quick stops downtown to find convenient street parking.

That plan never came to fruition, and Zerba said she's looking forward to hearing what Desman has to say about it.

"This is something we want to revisit," she said.

This memo contained suggestions that the garages and lots aren't well marked. Zerba said that's probably true, and the authority is working on creating better signage to indicate what's what.

York City has a mix of city-run and privately owned public parking around its downtown area.

Parkers: On Friday afternoon, Hanover resident Monique Klunk was popping in and out of the boutique shops on North Beaver Street.

"It works for me," she said. She said she doesn't come downtown that often, so she parks where she knows — the lot owned by Central Market at the northwestern corner of the intersection of North Beaver and West Philadelphia streets.

Around the corner, Donald Emory and Jessie Adlebute were parking their car in the first block of West Market Street. When asked what he thought of the state of parking in the city, Emory kept it concise.

"Sucks," he said. He said it costs too much.

White Rose to charge for parking

Adlebute said she has to come downtown regularly and usual parks in one of the public garages, even though they cost more than she'd like.

"It's a safety thing," she said. She worries about her car getting damaged or broken into.

The two women working in Watchmaker's Daughter echoed what many public officials and community activists have said about the city: It has to deal with the overblown perception that it's dangerous to come downtown.

"How do we get past that?" Reptsik asked, only half hypothetically.

She said it seems like more people are coming downtown then they used to, but there's still progress to be made.

"We're still pulling people in," she said.

The store, which has reserved spots for its employees, offers validation for the Philadelphia Street garage.

Zerba said the general authority is cognizant of the changes taking place downtown, with new shops, restaurants and apartments bringing more and different parking needs to the area.

"We aren't operating in a vacuum," she said.

— Sean Cotter covers York City for The York Dispatch. Contact him or on Twitter at@SPCotterYD.