Editor's Note: This article was updated on Monday, Sep. 13 at 8:58 p.m. to reflect that the downtown parking study is not related to the city's traffic study.
A parking study reviewed by the city at Monday night’s commission meeting indicates that downtown Frankfort has all the parking it needs for now.
The city needs to do a better job of using what’s available via parking rule enforcement, messaging and more according to the study.
Conversely, the study also says that the currently planned 697 spaces to be created as part of the Parcels B and C redevelopment won't be enough to satisfy projected demand.
The study accounted for the city's plan to receive a $5.5 million grant to go towards the construction of a roughly $8.5 million parking garage on the currently vacant, nearly 12-acre Parcels B and C downtown. The city has said for several months that it anticipates receipt of the grant.
Completed by Walker Consultants, components of the report included a supply and demand study, an analysis of future conditions and a parking management plan.
One of the supply and demand study’s biggest conclusions: downtown has more than enough parking, it just needs to be better advertised and utilized.
The supply and demand study included six parking space occupancy counts conducted at different times on two different days. It found that of the city’s roughly 3,892 private and 1,297 public parking spaces, a combined 5,169, only about 18% were filled at a peak count. On Thursday afternoon, the firm recorded 911 of those spaces as occupied.
One crucial caveat to the supply and demand study is that it was conducted in early January of this year, when COVID-19 still impacted people’s driving patterns, work routine and more. Their analysis suggests that demand dropped 55-65% compared to pre-COVID times. Still, even with that drop adjusted, the study indicates that only about 1,500 of the 5,169 parking spots would be used.
In general their findings showed a strong surplus of on-street parking spaces, though certain “hot spots” closest to the core saw almost two-thirds occupancy at peak time. Those hot spots, primarily along and between Broadway and Main Street, were shown to approach total supply during peak once Walker adjusted for the effects of COVID-19.
Of the 25% of the parking stock that is public, a large chunk of it is housed in the Ann Street parking garage, which requires payment. The study suggests that the 515-space garage should be advertised better, and might be better utilized if some of the weekday time limits for on-street parking were enforced.
“The most convenient spaces are on street and free to use, generally signed with a two-hour time limit in the core Central Business District, while the less convenient parking in the City-owned Ann Street Public Garage requires a payment,” the study reads. “The required payment disincentives users from parking in this off-street asset.”
The study notes that both the Ann Street garage and the privately owned St. Clair Street garage — which the city sold to Mike Templeman for $51,500 just three years after buying it for a much higher price — are well situated to provide more parking for the area.
It also cited “low walking tolerance” as a key reason that more off-street parking spaces aren’t being used, and recommended that the city allow drivers to park there for one hour free of charge.
The study covered the Central Business District, which is bounded to the south and west by the Kentucky River, to the north by the state office buildings along Mero Street, and to the east by High Street.
With the future of Parcels B and C in mind, Walker suggested that the new parking planned as part of that development — New Frankfort Development has suggested 697 spaces in its “Project Vision” — will not be enough.
Using a model based on methodology from the International Council of Shopping Centers, the National Parking Association, and the Urban Land Institute's Shared Parking, third Edition, Walker claims that the proposed development needs 735 parking spaces.
Of note, the biggest chunk of that projected parking need is 267 spaces required for “fast food/fast casual restaurant” space. The analysis projects 177 for the proposed YMCA facility, 159 spaces for the 216 residential units and only 48 spaces for the Capital Plaza Hotel.
The 697-space count in the current plan comes from adding up the planned 300-space garage and new surface lots within Parcels B and C, each adding about 200 parking spaces — 200 spaces on the existing YMCA garage land and 197 to primarily serve the planned apartments.
In short, the study recommends that the city pay more attention to parking than it currently does.
It recommends that the city develop an overall strategy for parking, a basic starting point for which would be delineating that curb space is to be used for short-term parking whereas off-street parking would be for long-term use.
The study also recommends that the city retain a full-time equivalent for “parking enforcement resource,” that it improve customer experience and wayfinding at the Ann Street garage, that it look into shared parking opportunities between the city and private owners and more.