Who doesn't have opinions about parking?

I hear the Chapel Hill Downtown Partnership is conducting a survey about parking. They are asking what kind of businesses we visit downtown and how often, where we park (if we drive), how much we want to pay for it (none, duh), and what our opinions are about towing.

They're not clear about whether the survey covers downtown Carrboro as well. They usually say that it is within their sphere of interest, but it will certainly change the results if Carrboro is included, don't you think? Anyway, make up your own mind and go take the survey now.


Thanks for spreading the word Ruby! The Chapel Hill Downtown Partnership and the Town of Chapel Hill have been engaged in a comprehensive parking study for downtown Chapel Hill since the fall. The consulting firm has created a survey for downtown Chapel Hill customers to give feedback on parking.

The study is for downtown Chapel Hill only.

Meg McGurk - Assistant Direct/ Chapel Hill Downtown Partnership

At the risk of being attacked by angry suburbanites and bicyclists at the same time, I find almost no problem parking downtown in Chapel Hill or Carrboro. I do have a problem with the lack of good lighting at night.

This oversight is surprising in a place with so many students, bars and restaurants. I used to work on U Street in Washington, DC and we had better lighting (this was pre-gentrification). Basically, the Black Cat and an fried fish place were the only two open businesses in a several block area. For those of you with a cursory knowledge of history - U Street was mostly burned down in the 1968 Riots and left to rot until about 1993 when it finally got partial Metro service.

When you work in a place like DC, you don't mind taking the metro or parking several blocks away. Based on those standards, there are plenty of parking spaces in Chapel Hill and Carrboro. 

So, I will probably stand alone in saying that there is plenty of parking (if you don't mind walking or using public transportation on weekends for large events). 

This doesn't excuse developers from building enough parking for new development, but for the most part - a good walk (better lit at night) is a small price to pay downtown. 

I've had more problems parking on the west end of Franklin at night. It's made going to restaurants in the area more difficult.

Perhaps there's plenty of parking on many days, but Friday or Saturday evenings, esp. when there's a football or basketball game, can be pretty challenging.

It's happened several times in the last year that I/we have either opted not to bother with Franklin St. for dinner or an event because of past parking problems. And at least twice recently, on occasions when we'd decided we'd take our chances with parking because we really wanted to go to X Franklin St. restaurant, we circled for 20 min. and then said "stuff it!" (or words to that effect) and gone elsewhere -- to Carrboro or Timberlyne or ...

Every time a potential patron has to weigh options based primarily on anticipated parking problems, the life of the downtown area is undermined -- something we all already know, but maybe this survey will bring the point home in a different way.

Also: noticed that the survey didn't mention buses as alternatives, which is -- unfortunately -- probably appropriate, at least for activities after dark, when many bus lines reduce or stop service and many peripheral bus stop areas are unlit and unsheltered. Replacing use of personal cars with public transport would be laudable, but how to do it for evening activities is the obvious question.

You bring up a great point. We shouldn't have our little town over run by these Game Day folks. Why not do a Halloween style ban and bus them in? Even the Redskins and Atlanta Braves have parking away from the event and busses running folks in.

If it works for them and they are in large municipalities (well Sprawl areas), why not us?

As for busses, when I come back from Reffing Friday Night Football games through town, the bus stops are jammed with kids at 10 o'clock or even later. These are on MLK and in-town and mostly sheltered, which makes part of your point about lighting and safety...

Do we have a parking problem or perceived parking problem?

Has anyone actually studied the real difficulty of finding parking on a Friday Night?

We live in a University town. It seems like a great Sociology project. Come on students, you can go out on Thursday, Friday and Saturday and call it research. :)

It could also be a Business project. How does lack of parking affect a particular business?

The importance of safe, reliable alternatives to cars for events and going downtown at night, along with better lighting is a great starting point for this.

Maybe this study will be a good starting point to getting answers instead of anectdotes.

--Freedom is not just another word

While a large part of me agrees with you, I think there's also a good argument to be made that the game day tourists generate enough revenue to compensate for the space they're taking up. Of course, I'm sure that a little ingenuity could provide for a more efficient means of getting those out-of-towners downtown for the economic stimulus benefit without compromising the accessibility of our existing parking spot for everyon else. Coupling this with more time limited parking spaces might also help capture some of this problem. Of course, like any plan that would affect mostly those coming in from out of town, adequate signage and public education are going to be key to the success of any program to change game day parking.

Of course, while we're discussing downtown parking, it's probably time someone pointed back to the Downtown Parking Citizens' Committee, which made an excellent report on these issues.

Here is an interesting map that was part of tonights Board of Alderman packet.

Downtown Carrboro Parking Map

A note on the map says:
"The parking space numbers on this map were calculated as estimates based on square feet of pavement. Many of these numbers will be updated with actual counts from the parking study."

Info about Parking Study here in PDF from Economic Sustainability Commission Minutes.

when i was on the transportation advisiory board about 7 years ago we were told by the staff that there are 4000 parking spots in downtown carrboroellen

I live in western Orange and work elsewhere, so I don't have a good recent perception of general parking in downtown CH and C'boro during the week. However, our habit used to be to go meet friends on Friday or Saturday nights in downtown Chapel Hill or Carrboro. Currently, our choice of restaurants is largely driven by our expectations of nearby parking and lack of congestion. Many times recently, we've altered our plans purely because of lack of available parking where we intended to dine. Walking a few blocks is not the issue. The issue is circling and circling and circling with a hungry crew trying to figure out where to park. And after that is solved, then there's the issue of having to wait for a table on the busiest nights of the week. I think if we had a clearer understanding of where parking was definitely available on Friday and Saturday nights, even if it was several blocks away, we might be more inclined to go downtown. As it is, we've become accustomed to primarily patronizing those establishments that have their own off street parking away from the downtown area. (Even though I know that more private parking lots are not a solution.) 

The flip side is that Hillsborough has a couple of  good restaurants and parking more than a couple blocks away is almost never an issue. And there's rarely much of a wait.

If parking problems were affecting so many people's plans, shouldn't the restaurants in the parking-constrained areas be relatively empty?  Shouldn't there be virtually no waiting to get a table?

And if parking is so much superior in Hillsborough, shouldn't the restaurants be fuller and have longer waits for tables?

"Nobody goes there no more, it's too crowded!"

-Y. Berra


If you could get a list of available parking and where it was on your cellphone would you find it helpful?

My guess is a solution could be devised to count available spaces in lots and report them to people dynamically.

Anyone have ideas on how to count parking automatically without spending a ton of money on sensors? Do parking decks have digital counts of available spaces?

Suddenly WiFi in parking lots sounds like a good idea! :)

From my perspective, speaking strictly about Friday nights and weekends, there may be a much simpler solution. If the parking meters and pay by the space areas of the muni lots P3 and P5 were enforced right up to 10pm, especially including weekends, I'd bet that much of the problem would solve itself. I like the "pay by the space" concept, rather than meter feeding, and have seen that work quite well in other downtown areas such as Asheville. Paying a buck an hour to park is not really that much to ask of folks like me that drive in from out of town. It'd also be nice if more of the limited parking meter spaces had a 4 hr option so there's no issue of having to remember to come back to feed the meter. That would be particularly important if they were to be enforced in the evenings.


To my mind, Carrboro has the bigger problem in that there's simply not enough physical space for all the vehicles that try to cram into the general Weaver St- Main St area on Friday and Saturday nights. Again, if paying some nominal fee like $1/hr would mitigate that, there'd probably be no shortage of folks willing to pay.

I don't think I've read anyone mention the valet parking that is available on the west end. I've pasted in info below from the CHDP's web site. I've used it twice and both times it's been less expensive (it's free, but I'm counting the cost of a nice tip) and less time-consuming than waiting to pay at the pay station even though there were spaces available in Lot 3. And the best part was that it was easy and fun and you didn't have to worry about whether there were any spaces available. And just in case you wondered, the cars are being parked in a University lot.

West End Valet Parking: Nine businesses located on the West End of Franklin Street offer a complimentary valet parking service six nights a week. The service is available Monday through Saturday from 5:00pm to 11:00pm. Simply drive up to the front of the 440 building, UNC's Information Technologies Building located at 440 West Franklin Street, to take advantage of the service.

Linda Convissor

I started a job as a parking lot attendant with the Town of CH this week, and I can confirm that there are digital sensors that count available spaces. However, I do not know if the machines have any hookup for broadcasting the information.

-Erin Crouse

What is "pay by space?" 

I guess I don't think parking is a huge issue in downtown Chapel Hill. What's an issue is free parking. We like to think that in the evening we should be able to park for free, maybe because it used to be easier to find free parking at night downtown. But it's still pretty easy to find pay parking at night downtown. Maybe it was when I became a parent, but I got to a point where I was willing to pay a few bucks to park so as not to have to circle downtown repeatedly. (And yes I do know some of the secret free spots.) 

As for Carrboro: not enough parking or not enough parking right at Carr Mill? I don't think those lots on Main Street and at Town Hall are ever that busy when Weaver Street is drawing a crowd. It's just a matter of how far you are willing to walk--and in downtown Chapel Hill, you'd probably be willing to walk that far for free parking anyway.

Also, the idea of keeping visitors out of town during ballgames is exactly the wrong idea. Those folks are a pretty major part of downtown's economy.   

I agree with your overall premise, but differ on the overall impact of visitors.

They spend at the Smith Center and the Stadium, but they all seem to be in a massive hurry to get out of town after the games...

The type of visitor who comes just for games, doesn't hang around. People who come and stay at the Carolina Inn or some of the other establishments do.

I doubt that the people coming to games have a significant impact on anything other than bars and restaurants - if that.

It's important not to confuse a spectator from Raleigh with a family in town for an alumni function or to visit the school. Those folks spend $100 or so a day or more. Folks coming to a game, may buy gas, a six pack and some cigarettes.

As a season ticket holder for several teams over my lifetime, I can tell you that I contributed to the team and the venue alot. However, I did very little shopping in the area. However, when I went as a tourist, I spent a lot.

I am willing to bet the drain on our services - police overtime, roads and other infrastructure makes the game day visitor almost irrelavent to our economy.

I can only speak for myself and the other folks that I knew as Season Ticket Holders, but we spent very little other than on the club.

That said, if parking were restricted to areas near the business district, you may get more spillover traffic before games and after. Especially, since we don't have alcohol sales in the major venues here.

Rather than my original gut NIMBYish attitude, that might be something the Chamber should expand on - like the shuttles from the Mall. By protecting the relatively small roads from heavy traffic on campus, we could push the traffic to the businesses and start recoup those lost dollars on services and infrastructure from the drive-ins...

Thanks for helping me rethink my overall opinion with your comments. 


I still like emoticons....

--Freedom is not just another word

I suspect that the impact on the local economy has grown, but here is some "historical" data.  A CHH article (sorry - no link!) in August 2007 reported:

According to a Kenan-Flagler business school study, the local economic impact of one home football game is $6.7 million. That generates more than $400,000 in local sales tax.
Another article quoted Chancellor Moeser saying that :

An economic impact study conducted by UNC Professor Nathan Tomasini made a conservative estimate of the economic impact of a home football game at Kenan Stadium. Using the Nov. 5, 2005, Boston College-Carolina match-up as his guide, Tomasini estimated per-game economic impact at $6.8 million, with $452,898 per game in total tax revenue for the town. Using calculations developed by the National Association of Sports Councils, local tourism officials estimate that in 2004, UNC football and basketball patrons spent a combined $32.1 million per season in economic impact for Chapel Hill including meals, lodging, game tickets and other purchases.


If spaces are more than 85% full, the rates need to be raised. The fees collected should be directly invested in local businesses and neighborhoods--installing/repairing sidewalks, planting trees, lighting, etc..




American drivers park for free on nearly ninety-nine percent of their car trips, and cities require developers to provide ample off-street parking for every new building. The resulting cost? Today we see sprawling cities that are better suited to cars than people and a nationwide fleet of motor vehicles that consume one-eighth of the world's total oil production. [UCLA planning professor] Donald Shoup contends in The High Cost of Free Parking that parking is sorely misunderstood and mismanaged by planners, architects, and politicians. He proposes new ways for cities to regulate parking so that Americans can stop paying for free parking's hidden costs.

The words "herding cats" comes to mind.
Ellen, I can not imagine that there are 4000 public parking spaces in downtown Carrboro. Even if you count all the driveways in the downtown I really don't think that it would add up to that number

5th Quarter Chapel Hill is one initiative that many entities (CHT, Chamber, UNC, Visitor's Bureau, Downtown merchants) have come together to support---it allows attendees at football games to spend some time in our downtown area and still get a ride back to a park and ride lot to their cars when they are finished.   The old model was that we bused all these people in, then quickly bused them out once the game ended.  By providing transportation to designated park and ride lots for up to three hours after the end of a game, we have given people an easy way to hang out afterwards and eat a meal, have a drink, or peruse shops. 

 The data clearly shows that  game day visitors have a very positive impact on our local economy.   By providing them with easy ways to park elsewhere, stay downtown, and then get back to their cars, we can capture even more of that purchasing power in our towns.   

Mary Roach, reviewing "Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do (and What It Says about Us)" for NYT wrote:
...we rarely seem to get anywhere fast at any time of day. One reason, Vanderbilt reports, is that people are driving to do things they once did at home or down the block. "It is not just that American households have more cars," he writes, "it is that they are finding new places to take them." They're going someplace to eat. They're driving to Whole Foods because they don't like the produce at their neighborhood supermarket. They're going out to get coffee. (So much of Starbucks's revenue now comes from drive-through lanes that the company will put stores across the street from each other, sparing drivers "the agony of having to make a left turn during rush hour.") And they're parking. Or trying to. In a study of one 15-block area near U.C.L.A., cars were logging, on an average day, 3,600 miles in pursuit of a place to park. It's not only the number of parkers on the roads that slows things down. It's the way they drive, crawling along, sitting and waiting and engaging in other irritating examples of what one expert calls "parking foreplay." The answer? Sorry: more expensive street parking to encourage the circling hordes to use pay lots...


The way you get greater availability of on-street parking is to encourage motorists to use the parking lots, parking decks, car pooling and alternative transit by charging more for on-street parking.


Community Guidelines

By using this site, you agree to our community guidelines. Inappropriate or disruptive behavior will result in moderation or eviction.


Content license

By contributing to OrangePolitics, you agree to license your contributions under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 United States License.

Creative Commons License

Zircon - This is a contributing Drupal Theme
Design by WeebPal.