Parking Episode 1: Strategic Parking Management Basics for Small Communities


Like it or not, parking policies have a dramatic impact on the ways our communities and economies develop and grow. Unfortunately, there are few community issues that are more challenging to wrestle with. This three-part webinar series on parking will help views have a better understanding of how to craft good parking policies that help advance broader community goals. Featuring nationally recognized transportation planner Jim Charlier of Charlier Associates, this series includes guest speakers and case studies on good parking practices from communities across the Western states.

  1. This episode (EP.1) covers the basics of what makes for good parking policy.
  2. Episode 2 discusses parking management strategies that support your community’s walkability, housing, and development goals.
  3. Episode 3 explores emerging technology trends that are shaping the parking landscape in the West.


Watch episode 1   Watch Episode 2   Watch Espisode 3

Few policy issues in local government are more challenging than parking: retailers have a unique perspective, commuters need to get to work, elected leaders may want to build new off-street supply, and nobody likes parking enforcement.

Cities and towns can benefit from a strategic approach to parking management that balances these various local perspectives and avoids expensive or unpopular “solutions.”  In small Western communities, successful local parking policy must also take into account seasonal fluctuations in visitor presence and economic activity, absence of big city transit services, snow removal requirements, and the likelihood that an important downtown street is also a state highway.

This is the first of three sessions that will lay out a basic foundation for modern, parking practice in smaller communities – including strategic management of supply, demand, funding, and enforcement – all in a framework that relies on accurate data and ongoing public engagement.

Tyler Sinclair //
Planning Director // Town of Jackson, Wyoming
James F. Charlier
, AICP // President// Charlier Associates, Inc.

This webinar aired on Wednesday, February 21, 2018.

Eligible for 1 AICP CM credit from the American Planning Association, event #9142993.

Presentation Slides


Q: I would imagine a concern with residential parking permits is whether there will be places for resident’s visitors to park. Any recommendations for how to address this concern?
Jim: This can be an issue in some places.  Most residential visitor demand occurs in the evenings. So an RPP that is addressing daytime overflow parking from a downtown or college campus can work well. In that case permits can be required just for daytime parking (e.g., “Permit Required 8AM – 5PM”). In areas where the problem is caused by destination restaurants and other land uses that generate overflow parking in the evenings, an RPP may not work as well. Usually some provision for visitor permits can be made, but this can be clumsy and frustrating for residents. Generally RPPs are a better solution for daytime commuter overflow parking demand than for other situations.

Q: How do you suggest balancing parking space quantities with landscaping requirements for parking lots and structures?
Jim: In many cities, parking code requirements combined with site development criteria (e.g., minimum landscaping, on-site stormwater retention, etc.) can make many redevelopment and infill sites impossible to develop – so little space is left that the project pro-forma doesn’t work. And requiring on-site stormwater retention because the city hasn’t gone to the effort of establishing regional facilities is inexcusable; the resulting development will be an eyesore until it is torn down and rebuilt — someday. But for most infill and redevelopment sites, a primary strategy should be to look for ways to reduce parking demand. I also think landscaping requirements tend to be based on suburban concepts and standards. Good urban (with a small ‘u’) development should provide for trees, but long setbacks from the street are a waste of land. Requiring a 25% landscaping set-aside (which I’ve seen in some codes) is just nuts. We want to push densities up without having to build inappropriately-tall buildings. That means the building should occupy most of the site. Requiring each project to park itself on site is another suburban idea that we’ve inherited in our codes. This is where a parking district than can provide parking as a “shared utility” can encourage a much better development pattern. Finally, in my experience, all surface parking lots within cities and towns should be regarded as temporary: land banking for future buildings.

Q: I’d like to know more about how Jackson manages RV parking.
Tyler: Jackson prohibits RV parking on all public streets in our downtown 3 hour maximum parking management district (see the attached sign).  Jackson does have some reserved RV parking spaces in our primary downtown public parking lot (please see that attached signage utilized for this area). Jackson does not provide any specific signage directing RVs to this lot, but often the local visitor centers direct people to the lot for convenience. In addition, RVs are typically found parked just outside the downtown 3 hour maximum parking management district where they can park legally with no time limit. In addition, the Town recently has created a reserved area in the Town right of way downtown for tour bus pick up and drop off as that has been a recent issue in the community.



Q: Would you recommend paid parking for smaller downtowns in cities without adequate bus routes? This is for a community of less than 25,000.
Jim: Paid parking is always controversial.  I think it’s important to be very strategic about when to put paid parking on the table. Without knowing the other characteristics of your city it’s hard to give a general answer.  Aspen is a city of only about 10,000 and they really needed to implement paid parking in their downtown. Same for Park City. And Tyler knows I think this will eventually be necessary in downtown Jackson (population about 10,000.) So it’s not just about size. It’s about how busy your downtown or other commercial area has become.  Many cities have downtowns that are not doing that well and are being forced to compete with suburban locations because local jurisdictions are allowing sprawl, which is subsidized and can suck the life out of a downtown. In those cases, paid parking in the downtown might not be the first strategy I would recommend pursuing.

Q: Any input on resolving congestion caused by mixed use of an area? In our case, it’s heavy trucks and pickups for the fishing industry in the same main street a tourists and retail.
Jim: Many downtowns struggle with core streets – including “main streets” – that are also state highways or major urban corridors.  Here is a link to a guidance document we put together with Community Builders just over a year ago, funded by Colorado state government:  https://www.colorado.gov/pacific/dola/colorado-downtown-streets.  Also, our next webinar in this series will look in depth at a small city in Colorado – Glenwood Springs – that contends with a main street that is also a state highway and that carries heavy traffic, including a lot of trucks. Tune in to that webinar to hear more about how they are managing that.

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