Parking pay facilities will be going in along Main Street and a block on both sides of Main as the first step in dealing with a growing parking problem on the Southside, officials said Thursday.
Jim Williamson from the River City Company, City Transportation Director Blythe Bailey and Brent Matthews from the Chattanooga Parking Authority/CARTA outlined the changes to the Southside Chamber of Commerce.
The pay meters, stretching from Market Street to Wilhoit Street, are due to be installed in the first quarter of this year.
They are due to be extended along Main from Market to Broad in the third quarter of the year.
Enforcement by the Chattanooga Parking Authority will also be added.
A second part of the master plan is to implement a Residential Parking Program for the Cowart and Fort Negley neighborhoods. Because enforcement along Main Street is expected to push parking in front of residences, a sticker will be available for a small annual fee to provide free parking to those living in the surrounding neighborhoods. Guest passes for the houses that can be put on dashboards will also be offered.
Officials said this same program has been in existence in the Fortwood neighborhood for the last 7-8 years and has worked well.
Also under consideration is a permit program for businesses on Main Street and monthly or annual passes for the CARTA garage beside the Chattanooga Choo Choo.
There already is a “Hospitality program” around town for restaurants, bars and hotels which has 300 participants, with passes costing $30 per month. The goal is to get turnover all day long, at the meters. Restaurants do not want employees taking up spaces in front of their business, it was stated.
Mr. Bailey said he encourages biking, walking, using the free CARTA shuttle, and scooters that will soon be available as alternative modes of transportation to help alleviate the parking issues.
He noted that safety is also a major concern in this area. Safety features have already been added at cross walks and there is police vigilance. He said that Main Street has become safer because of the number of “faces on the street.” Seeing people out walking, he said, makes more people comfortable.
Officials noted that sharp changes to the Southside have taken place in recent years and, with the growth and new development of commercial offerings and residential neighborhoods, has come the parking problems. The lack of regulation along the residential streets has led to their use to support the business district.
Two years ago, River City Company along with CDOT and the CPA did a study on parking. In this district, the study resulted in a recommendation to enforce publically available parking spaces along Main Street in order to increase access to businesses and restaurants that are located there.
In addition to street parking, the lots at Finley Stadium, CARTA’s South public garage, and some small private lots that support the related businesses are also available. But about half of the off-street parking is reserved for employees or customers only, and the stadium lots are usually filled during special events. The CARTA garage costs $4 per day at all times, while parking on Main Street east of Cowart is free and unregulated. Those spaces are also the most convenient to restaurants. They are also more valuable to someone working in the district or visiting, rather than using the garage where they have to pay. The street parking therefore, is often full, especially during peak restaurant hours, it was noted.
Officials said the current pricing system encourages on-street parking. The lack of street parking on Main pushes cars in search of free parking to spill over into the surrounding residential neighborhoods causing frustration to people who live there.