SOUTH PORTLAND — A traffic study suggests limiting parking to one side of some Knightville residential streets to reduce congestion and force visitors to use more remote on-street spaces.
The study says the neighborhood has a reasonable amount of traffic, but most streets are too narrow for the parking demand, while much on-street parking is underutilized.
Following the completion of a $3 million sidewalk improvement and sewer separation project in 2012, and decisions to make one block of Ocean Street one-way with about a dozen angled parking spaces, residents began voicing concerns.
A committee was formed under former Assistant City Manager Jon Jennings last August to examine traffic and parking patterns, and to suggest improvements to the City Council.
After residents and some members of the committee approached the City Council about undertaking a comprehensive traffic study, the council agreed.
The northbound-only change three years ago between D and E streets accommodated businesses that believed elimination of angled parking on the street would drive away customers unwilling to walk another block or two from their cars. Two-way traffic would have required parallel parking, and fewer spaces in front of the stores.
As a result of the change, more traffic was dumped onto D Street, which is mostly residential.
Eventually, business owners and residents urged the city to take a more holistic view of the situation, and possible alternatives, “or even (determine) if the issues were founded,” City Manager Jim Gailey said this week.
For three days in June, Sebago Technics recorded the volume of traffic through the corridor. Each day showed a similar number of vehicles, approximately 1,200 and 1,400. At the peak, around 2 p.m., approximately 120 cars drove down D Street, which is about two cars every minute.
For Knightville, that number “is a lot,” Gailey said Wednesday afternoon. D Street traffic is three times as high as the traffic volume on comparable streets, he said.
The study also found there are nearly 350 public parking spaces in the neighborhood (plus nearly 870 if privately owned spaces are included), and maximum demand for public parking only reached 50 percent of capacity.
So why the perception of inadequate parking?
“I think there’s a (belief) that ‘I want to park right here to visit right here,'” Gailey said. When parking spaces along the one-way portion of Ocean Street and on D Street are filled, perhaps people don’t look elsewhere, or simply don’t want to walk, he said.
Gailey said the study noted the national standard is that people can be expected to walk up to a quarter of a mile from their parking spot to a destination.
“It is common in parking demand studies to assume that a five-minute walk between the destination and the parking spot is reasonable,” according to the study.
The conclusion, Gailey said, is “this district has plenty of parking, it’s just that you might not be able to park right in front of the place where you want to be.”
Coloring this conclusion, however, is the study’s finding that only two streets in Knightville – C Street west of Ocean Street and E Street west of Ocean – meet minimum requirements for street width.
That means parking within a five-minute walk may exist, but when snowbanks crowd the already narrow streets, parking is possible on only one side of the street.
D Street, for example, is 30 feet wide, “which is sufficient for two-way traffic and parking (only) on one side,” according to the study. “Parking demand on this street was never near capacity, so elimination of parking on one side of the street should be considered.”
The Knightville Parking and Traffic Circulation Committee received the study at its meeting last week. It is scheduled to discuss the results Sept. 15.
The circle on this Knightville parking map, produced for South Portland by Sebago Technics, shows parking almost anywhere in the neighborhood is within a five-minute walk of local businesses.