Portland parking study sees weekday demand growing

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PORTLAND — A report shows weekday parking becoming harder to find on the peninsula, even as the city unveiled a new mobile app designed to make metered parking easier.

The city announced the new Passport Parking app June 15. It allows users to enter the number of the meter where they have parked, pay the fee from their device, and also buy more time when the app warns them the meter is close to expiring.

The app can only be used at about 1,600 meters bearing the Passport sticker. Drivers must register their license plates in the app; city parking staff will scan vehicle plates using their handheld meters, which also generate parking citations, city spokeswoman Jessica Grondin said.

Two days before the app was launched, the City Council Sustainability & Transportation Committee reviewed a report from T.Y. Lin International that concludes demand could soon exceed supply for on- and off-street parking on the peninsula.

“I think what it does is in some respects, tells us the answers we already knew,” Councilor Spencer Thibodeau said June 15. Thibodeau is the committee chairman; he has asked committee members Belinda Ray and Brian Batson to help create a working list on solutions to be considered.

The $25,000 report, with $15,000 paid by Portland Downtown and $10,000 by the city, studied parking in seven zones in the Arts District, Old Port, and along the eastern waterfront.

Parking patterns were observed on a Thursday and Saturday in December 2016, and data was extrapolated to determine demand in the summer, according to the study.

It found there are nearly 16,000 parking spaces available at midday on a weekday, with 12,300 of those available on weekends later at night since some lots and garages close. The study also found there are close to 1,200 more spaces within a quarter-mile of the study area boundaries.

Measured by an “effective parking capacity” of 90 percent of spaces in garages and lots and 85 percent of spaces on the street, the current demand is being strained in the study area on weekdays, with between 290 and 480 more vehicles than spaces.

Peak times on weekends are not a problem. The study estimated between 3,000 and 4,000 spaces remain available on Saturday afternoon and evening. At the same time, on-street parking is over capacity on Saturday afternoons.

Ten-year projections on downtown development were measured at 100 percent, 75 percent and 50 percent of anticipated growth. Here the study shows weekday demand will be at least 840 vehicles above supply.

The weekend demands remain well met, with 1,500 to 2,000 spaces expected to be available.

“It is the people looking for parking for their jobs and we have to address that,” Thibodeau said.

The study suggests the city help start a nonprofit transportation management association that could promote cooperation between businesses and transportation providers and make better use of outlying lots.

The city could also help island residents with mainland parking by better use of shuttles and ride sharing. City officials may also consider increasing parking meter fees during peak times to encourage alternative modes of transportation.

Thibodeau said parking for island residents is a high priority, and a study by the Peaks Island Council suggests seven possible solutions to freeing up more parking spaces on the waterfront.

The solutions include extending the zone where residents can park using “Island Resident” stickers without facing citations for expired meters or hourly restrictions.

The study also suggests increasing the number of dedicated spaces for island residents in the garage adjacent to the Casco Bay Ferry Terminal, and providing more overnight and weekend only parking spaces for residents.

David Harry can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or dharry@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @DavidHarry8.

With Commercial Street spaces hard to find June 14, one driver in Portland makes a quick turn to a just-opened spot. A study concludes peak weekday parking demand already exceeds supply in the area, and will get worse.

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Portland City Hall reporter for The Forecaster. Baltimore native, lived in Maine since 1989. A journalist since 2005, covering much of Cumberland and York counties. I joined The Forecaster in 2012.