Downtown Stockton parking in need of serious overhaul

Parking management in Downtown Stockton is overdue for much needed upgrades according to a recent review by city-hired parking consultant Kimley Horn and Associates (KHA). The report, “Parking Program Operations and Organizational Assessment,” catalogs many of the challenges the current Central Parking District faces in the wake of Stockton’s bankruptcy and limited revenue and staffing options.

The Stockton Arena garage

The Stockton Arena garage is extremely underutilized according to a new report on Downtown Stockton Parking

Many recommended fixes are straightforward, at least conceptually – such as modernizing outdated, old equipment – but other recommendations speak to a more difficult problem, that of fostering communication and trust among the city and key downtown players.

According to KHA, there are approximately six-thousand parking spaces within the downtown area – a mix of metered on-street spots, surface lots and garages. All are plagued with maintenance and operations issues that typically cost more to deal with than what they bring in. 1,700 of the spots alone involve manual coin collection – overseen by the city’s police department. An upgrade to modern on street collection technology (i.e. meters that accept credit card, mobile phone collection, etc.) can result in a 25% to 30% increase in total revenues, according to KHA.

Per the report, most of these issues are attributable to a systemic lack of professional understanding regarding how a focused parking strategy can support broader economic and community development.

“Limited industry knowledge beyond their (city staff) local experience is tactically focused almost on exclusively on day-to-day operation,” read the report, “One of the single biggest challenges faced by the current parking program is the lack of a strong, knowledgeable parking professional to lead the department.”

Granted, given the city’s fiscal situation, there hasn’t been much staff support to spare on the downtown parking situation let alone to think abstractly about how to integrate the current system in such a way as to be complimentary to broader economic goals. But as Stockton begins to amend its now largely-irrelevant general plan, coupled with a downtown specific plan, there appears to be energy to spare.

As mentioned, many of the recommendations outlined in the report were pretty straightforward: hiring a parking program administrator, creating a new parking authority to oversee day-to-day operations, updating nearly all of the current meter technology, even investing more heavily in local transit which “is far cheaper than building additional parking.” However, the perceived lack of trust between the city and downtown stakeholders made numerous appearances in the report’s “issues” list.

“There is a tangible lack of trust as it relates to how district parking assessments have been and are being used,” read one statement within the report.

“Intra-departmental and external communications, especially to key stakeholder groups, seemed limited and strained,” read another.

If demand is low for parking-- as shown here just south of the waterfront-- should the city be charging for it?

The city has plenty of parking downtown, but all meters charge the same rates, even if no one ever uses them.

The report was accompanied by a presentation held last Thursday by KHA to city officials and downtown stakeholders. During the presentation, the consultants suggested that some strategies to alleviate parking issues could be implemented rather easily. For example, the consultant recommended granting free parking for all visitors for their first hour in all downtown parking garages, noting that a similar strategy in Lincoln, Nebraska was vital in turning that city’s downtown into a thriving urban center.

If any of the recommendations are to be implemented – particularly the suggested 50-cent-per-hour meter increase – it’s important to start with rebuilding needed relationships between businesses, individuals and the city that have evidently been left to languish.

An effective parking strategy can do wonders for downtowns. By pricing parking correctly, municipalities ensure that spots turnover frequently – good for local businesses – and are always available (even if it takes a few circles of the block, or results in customers having to walk an extra block or two) but local businesses can’t know that unless there’s an authority they trust to explain how parking management can work.

The report carries no real weight. Ultimately it’s up to the city to decide when and how they’ll start addressing parking issues downtown, but the public can weigh in. The next General Plan meeting – 6 p.m. Thursday, August 28 at City Hall – will be addressing transportation issues. Learn more here.


David Garcia also contributed to this report

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Categories: Transportation

5 Comments on “Downtown Stockton parking in need of serious overhaul”

  1. dan
    August 19, 2014 at 10:31 am #

    Good beginning. Many merchants, property owners, and visitors to downtown wonder why one of the most important areas of our city is essentially “penalized” with meters and onerous parking districts costs. Historically, NONE of this existed when many of these historic properties were constructed and served the good citizens of Stockton as the hub of business, government and entertainment.
    Drivers parked diagonally and their were hundreds of additional parking spaces.
    Stockton nearly planned the downtown out of existence with first and second generation sprawl, drawing the majority of business out of downtown and into the government subsidized farmland. (ie Police, Fire, Public Works etc) Post bankruptcy, Why is downtown the ONLY area of Stockton with parking meters? Why, for instance, did we remove meters (successfully) from the Miracle Mile and not DT?

  2. Bill Fuhs
    August 19, 2014 at 11:38 am #

    Due to the bankruptcy, we can’t get rid of the parking meters. But, the City Manager could move them to a more lucrative spot such as out to Spanos Land.
    Would the judge OK a metered entrance to the Spanos lot, and save a lot of cop time and raise gobs of money?

  3. dan
    August 19, 2014 at 12:57 pm #

    Perhaps meters could be placed in all the areas of Stockton that were farmland in the previous few decades. It would help offset the terrible cost to our community of the loss of these lands.

  4. Kristine
    August 20, 2014 at 10:38 am #

    I don’t know that we should advocate for completely free parking as it really just subsidizes vehicle use and can actually be detrimental to downtowns (see Shoup’s “The High Cost of Free Parking”). Pricing parking appropriately to demand doesn’t need to have negative consequences and isn’t what deters people from visiting. That doesn’t mean going in right away and jacking up prices when there isn’t really large demand, but means being flexible and treating parking as a marketplace that fluctuates. What does deter folks – well, at least me – is pulling up to a spot and realizing I have no quarters and only enough nickels to last me 12 minutes, that needs to change. Or wanting to bike to my destination downtown and having no secure spot to park my bike (parking shouldn’t be a car-only discussion). Hopefully some movement comes out of this study.

  5. dan
    August 26, 2014 at 11:26 am #

    Santa Cruz has free parking downtown and a huge influx of people. Downtown Stockton has predominately government and in most cases parking for their own buildings.
    By installing meters there, and no where else in Stockton you subsidize the city on the backs of what little retail and office still exist downtown. It is grossly unfair to penalize the few small businesses and property owners downtown, when there are MANY more stores and businesses in north Stockton enjoying the benefits of either no meters, or as the case with the Miracle Mile removal of meters and free parking in city owned lots. Poor planning resulting in the exodus of all commercial activity downtown should not be compounded by parking meters, assessments and deincentives to moving downtown. That is the reality in Stockton.

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