City council adopts Town Center Parking Plan

Activating Town Center, supporting small businesses and enhancing the center’s visitor experience.

Within a 2021-22 budget proposal approval, the Mercer Island City Council voiced that three-pronged strategy as one of its goals that would play a role when the city began the process of conducting a Town Center parking study.

After the city contracted with global parking and mobility consulting firm Walker Consultants, the Town Center Parking Plan went into motion in 2022 and wrapped up a year later by gaining city council’s approval at its Nov. 21 regular meeting.

The plan’s adoption occurred more than a month after council’s Oct. 17 meeting, which featured a reviewal of 22 public comments on the draft plan and a robust discussion of nine items related to the plan’s strategies and recommendations.

The final plan includes five main sections: Project overview, parking inventory and utilization, community outreach activities, strategies and recommendations and implementation.

“This plan includes three strategies and several recommendations designed to make parking more functionally available, usable, and supportive of other options for non-car travel,” according to the city, which added that the last year’s study featured data collection, public engagement and analysis with Walker Consultants at the helm.

According to the plan, the trio of strategies are: No. 1 — Manage the on-street public parking supply (recommendations seek to make parking easier to find for all users, better enforced to help increase availability and more); No. 2 — Improve the convenience and efficiency of parking (recommendations include improving awareness of and navigation to the center’s range of parking options); and No. 3 — Expand travel mode choices through programs and infrastructure investments (recommendations are adding bicycle parking, creating more community gathering spaces and more).

The city encouraged residents to voice their opinions during a public comment review period from July 31-Sept. 19. During that time frame, the parking plan’s Let’s Talk platform received 726 page views, 409 downloads and eight unique comments.

A pair of the comments were: “In addition to considering the parking spaces, please ensure there is adequate parking (enforcement). To have slots that are taken all day does the merchants no good when someone wants to pop in to get a purchase”; and, “I’d really appreciate a central parking spot (willing to pay) where I could leave my car and walk to several shops and services in downtown.”

Next up, the city plans to complete the following tasks by the end of this year: publish new parking map resources on the city website; schedule city council review and adoption of updated Town Center parking citation amounts for 2024; and schedule 2024 parking counts.

Mayor Salim Nice noted that by adopting the comprehensive parking plan, the city takes a significant step forward in its commitment to enhancing business vitality and the quality of life in Town Center.

“It not only addresses current parking and accessibility concerns but also lays the groundwork for a more connected, vibrant and pedestrian-friendly Town Center. We are confident that this plan will positively impact our community, supporting local businesses and improving accessibility for everyone,” he said.

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