Downtown Chattanooga has over 43,000 parking spaces, but less than one-third of those 43,000 parking spaces are publicly available. This is one of the many findings from a yearlong $250,0000 comprehensive parking study led by The Chattanooga Area Regional Transportation Authority/ Chattanooga Parking Authority (CARTA/CPA) and River City Company, in partnership with the Lyndhurst and Benwood Foundations, the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, Siskin Hospital, Erlanger Health System and the City of Chattanooga.
Commissioned to understand challenges and opportunities related to parking as the city’s urban core continues to grow and develop, the study captured the current state of parking downtown and provides strategic recommendations for addressing and balancing the current parking needs of downtown’s diverse set of organizations, businesses and residents while also considering future development.
The study’s primary analysis which counted both on-street and off-street spaces with public and private access, the study also measured how much these spaces were used on a typical weekday and Saturday to understand normal patterns of parking activity.
This allowed the study team to understand true gaps in parking potential, looking beyond an individual parking facility but considering the needs of the entire district.
“With 43,000 spaces over an area covering five square miles, this is an extensive study and constituted a major data collection and analysis effort,” said Joel Mann, principal at Stantec Consulting Services Inc. and lead consultant on the parking study. “It is the first time downtown will have a comprehensive inventory of all on- and off-street spaces, including details such as loading zone locations and parking lots that only serve a dedicated business or user. Assembling this much data gives Chattanooga’s agencies and partner organizations an important tool for decision-making.”
In general, the study observed that current overall parking supply in Downtown Chattanooga is adequate. However, that supply is not optimally utilized which is evident when only less than one-third of those 43,000 parking spaces are available to the general public. Furthermore, even when supply is at its highest use during mid-day on a weekday typically, it is much less heavily used on weekends. This further suggests that major additions to parking supply might have limited utility.
Nonetheless, in select areas such as the Health & Ed district, UTC campus area and the MLK district, available supply is constrained.
From this, the framework for recommendations based on the findings from space counts, usage data (i.e. when people are actually parking in these spaces) and projections on future growth recommend a Manage First, Then Build with Strategy approach.
First, a key finding from the study found that available parking is almost always nearby a driver’s desired destination, at any given time or location in the study area. This highlights the need for those owners of parking to both understand the true demand of his or her parking facility (i.e. when are people actually parking here and why) and work to create shared parking opportunities.
An example of a shared parking opportunity would be if a company has a parking lot that is reserved for employees only and only being used by employees during the normal work day, opening up the parking lot in the evenings and on weekends can create availability for the general public and create a revenue stream for the business.
Second, the study recommended that price is the most effective determinant of a user’s willingness to stay in a location. This has led to several recommendations concerning pricing and time limits depending on the area and its observed use.
Third, parking should be treated as part of urban mobility. Sharing arrangements may extend beyond a comfortable walking reach for many customers, and to create exceptional sharing opportunities, there is a need to explore strengthened mobility connections such as transit, bicycling and improvements to the walking environment.
Last, strategies for new parking should include partnerships to construct facilities that not only serve multiple users but that can also serve future development. One example that the study has explored is a shared parking garage in the Health & Education district that would serve both Erlanger and Siskin Hospitals, but also potentially UTC and the Hamilton County Health Department.
“Downtown Chattanooga, like many urban areas, has challenges when it comes to parking,” said Kim White, president and CEO of River City Company. “For us, it’s making more of the parking that currently exists in downtown available to more people. And as our city continues to grow and change, we aim to work with partners to strategically add more parking where necessary, make parking more accessible and foster a downtown where people are comfortable parking once to then utilize the electric shuttle, bike share and walking to move around the downtown footprint. ”
To move this report from study to action, River City Company along with CARTA/CPA has an implementation team of downtown stakeholders and partners working to systematically execute recommendations from the study.
Stantec Consulting Services Inc., Nelson/Nygaard Consulting Associates and Perkins+Will were the transportation consulting agencies who were tasked with this study.