Articles Comments

City Beautiful 21 » Auto Traffic, Biking, Carrboro, Culture, Parking, Pricing, Tourism, Walking » Carrboro Parking Study Needs Your Input Thursday Eve (Feb 11th)

Carrboro Parking Study Needs Your Input Thursday Eve (Feb 11th)

If you care about having choices in how to get to and enjoy downtown Carrboro, it is very important that you attend the Carrboro Parking Study Kickoff Meeting at Carrboro Elementary school Thursday evening from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m.

I’ll be there to share a simple message, and I invite you to join me to reinforce it.  That message is:

"THIS STUDY WILL BE MOST SUCCESSFUL IF IT FOCUSES ON A BROAD GOAL OF IMPROVING ***ACCESS FOR PEOPLE*** TO DOWNTOWN CARRBORO, AND CONSIDERS PARKING ONE OF SEVERAL TOOLS TO REACH THAT GOAL."I apologize for going large font on everyone, but really, this is the heart of the matter. People love downtown Carrboro because it is full of life, energy, commerce, culture, food, art, music, protest, you name it. And all of those great things come from PEOPLE. Some of them happen to come downtown in cars, but really, it’s the PEOPLE that make the magic. Cars don’t have wallets and shop in our stores. Cars don’t play in local bands in our venues. Cars don’t wait tables in our restaurants. PEOPLE do. The town staff, fortunately, seem to get this. From a 2013 staff memo sent to the Board of Aldermen:

In, Parking Evaluation, Evaluating Parking Problems, Solutions, Costs, and Benefits, a publication from the Victoria Transport Institute, the author notes, “A problem correctly defined is a problem half solved.” As the Board continues to refine its overall parking objective–from the continuum of creating a greater number of parking spaces, to encouraging more consumers to the downtown, to reducing the number of existing parking spaces, to removing automobiles from the downtown and thereby reducing the Town’s carbon footprint—it may become easier to frame potential policy changes and LUO text amendments.

Citizens need to encourage the Board of Aldermen to continue in this direction described in the staff memo. Here are a few strategic initiatives to consider that could move us in this direction.

  1. The People Who Drive Downtown Most Often (and Stay the Longest) Represent the Biggest Potential Pool of Parking Spaces to Free Up: Employees If we can identify what barriers keep downtown Carrboro employees from coming to downtown by means other than a car, and address those- we can get all those people to work and free up a lot of parking capacity downtown without adding a single new space. The most obvious example here is that we have 33 restaurants and bars downtown, and while most places finish serving dinner in the 9:30 – 10:30 pm range, the bus service back to most in-town neighborhoods has a final trip leaving downtown before 9 pm. Workers may be able to bus in, but needing to drive home also necessitates driving in, and taking a parking space for the entire dinner shift in downtown.
  2. Recognize That Not Every Access Strategy Needs to Be Used by Everyone In Order for Everyone to Experience Better Access The more people with cars who sometimes drive to downtown that we can help try walking or biking downtown, the more parking will be available for folks driving in from places where biking, walking, or using transit are not as easy. On some days, those people who can walk or bike may still drive, but working to make sure walking and bike access is assured for those within a closer distance makes it more likely that parking spaces are open for those coming from further away, or those not on a bus line.
  3. Consider the Power of Many Small Changes Let’s consider a downtown employer with 10 employees, all of whom drive to work every day. Generally speaking, that employer will have a much easier time getting all ten of them to find a way to only drive 4 out of 5 days instead of getting two of them to stop driving downtown altogether. Either approach still reduces this group of ten’s collective demand for downtown parking by 20 percent. I doubt that there is any single strategy that will solve the downtown access issue, but a host of strategies that all temper parking demand by 3% here and 6% there can cumulatively have a big impact.
  4. Identify the Ways That Parking Pricing Is Superior to Aggressive Towing, and Explain Those Benefits to Residents, Businesses, and Visitors If we charge for parking, and do it in a smart, technology-driven way, we get all of these benefits:
  • Gives visitors to downtown more choice in how long they shop
  • Costs taxpayers less to enforce than enforcing free 2-hour parking
  • Prevents all-day Park & Ride Parking to UNC in town lots
  • Makes it possible to find a lot with many open spaces online or by smartphone
  • Makes it more likely that visitors to downtown find a space easily
  • Reduces cruising for parking which leads to increased congestion and emissions downtown
  • Generates potential revenue for improvements that expand bicycle, pedestrian, and bus access to downtown
  • Helps generate revenue for businesses with parking when their business is closed


If you want more details about any of the benefits of Parking Performance Pricing, I wrote a detailed post here.

I hope you can attend the meeting Thursday evening- see you there!

Written by

Filed under: Auto Traffic, Biking, Carrboro, Culture, Parking, Pricing, Tourism, Walking · Tags:

3 Responses to "Carrboro Parking Study Needs Your Input Thursday Eve (Feb 11th)"

  1. JoelSutherland says:


    First of all I love all the posts you write and am really happy to have an advocate like you in Carrboro!

    I run New Media Campaigns which is a web design agency that’s been located in downtown Carrboro for ~7 years. We just moved a few doors down into the floor above Acme. We have 16 employees but on a typical day bring just 5 cars downtown due to flexible scheduling, walkers and bikers.

    As I’ve thought about parking in Carrboro my impression has always been that there were the most cars downtown after 5pm. Lots are generally not full during the day and 9-5 employee parking *volume* is not a constraint.

    Instead it seems like the challenge is maximizing utilization of the parking that does exist. I think the primary bottleneck is the intellectual overhead required to understand where a person is allowed to park and when. The goal should be opening up downtown parking as much as possible for customers, not employees.

    In a small, progressive community like Carrboro it seems like there is an opportunity for some creative thinking to increase utilization and promote a healthier mix of how existing parking gets used.

    Carr Mill businesses free up close parking by having employees park in a loth farther away. No such option exists for all of the other businesses in Carrboro.

    A town-run employee parking program seems like it could be a perfect solution. Businesses could trade their nearby spots/spaces for town-owned or -leased spaces further away. A program like this seems like it could fully open up a number of downtown lots:

    * Lots behind 118 E. Main (Tom Robinsons)
    * Lot by Milltown/Gourmet Kingdom
    * Fitch Lumber?
    * Southern States

    I could also see it generating revenue as it would be helpful for businesses. This revenue could be possibly be used to secure leases with private lots. If the closer lots become metered it gets even easier.

    Do you know of any other cities/towns that run such a model?

    1. Patrick says:

      Joel, first thanks for your kind words and for taking the time to comment! I appreciate you reading CB21 and commenting. I also commend New Media Campaigns’ staff for their commitment to environmentally friendly commuting across multiple modes!

      On the parking comments you made, I agree that evening parking crunches tend to be worse than midday, and that the varying rules across public and private spaces about which lots are available to park in and which are not are a barrier to ease of parking.

      What I think you are proposing in your last paragraph is vaguely similar to the Performance Parking Pricing proposal I made previously on the blog here:

      I think the way this starts to work out is that the town would put all public lots in downtown into the Performance Parking Pricing program, and charge the lowest amount possible that keeps the lots 10-20% empty at all times. That means that anyone who drives to ANY lot they prefer ALWAYS finds a space. This price could vary by day of week and time of day. For example, demand for the lot catty-corner across from Greenbridge seems to be directly related to how many people are at Carrburritos, which means that lot would cost more per hour on Friday and Saturday evening, but nothing on Sundays when Carrburritos is closed.

      The beauty of setting up the technology infrastructure on the public lots is that it allows the private lot owners to opt-in and capture revenue (or charge nothing for parking to customers) as long as they pay to cover their participation in backend costs to the system.

      Asheville has elements of this type of system in place, and has a great app for paying for parking, but has not, to my knowledge, invited the private lots in yet.

  2. […] This is a quick look at how much more space cars take up than people, visualized. While the context here is a street, think of it as a parking lot for a moment. Then, as you think about how to enhance what we love about downtown Carrboro, think about whether we need to focus on providing more parking downtown, or improving other ways to get there.  See you tonight at the Carrboro Parking kickoff! […]

Leave a Reply