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Willamette River downtown Albany

The Willamette River passes by downtown Albany in this file photo from 2008.

The city of Albany has an adequate supply of parking, both on- and off-street, to meet the needs of regular visitors, customers and employees downtown.

This is according to an initial report presented Wednesday during the Central Albany Revitalization Area advisory board meeting to the parking advisory committee.

Rick Williams Consulting, a parking and transportation firm from Portland, examined parking in downtown Albany, monitoring vehicles on Saturday, April 20, and Thursday, May 16, of this year after consulting with city staff. It found that parking was not constrained, noting, “Where constraints do occur, there is more than adequate supplies of parking adjacent to the constraint or within walking distance.”

Of the 4,938 parking stalls studied, 2,205 were identified as on-street spaces. According to the report, parking is considered constrained when 85% of available spaces are routinely occupied during peak hours. For the area studied, the peak hour was between 11 a.m. and noon. During the study, parking spaces failed to approach 50% occupancy. On Thursday, they reached 42.5% and 30.1% on Saturday.

“I look at this as an opportunity period in Albany,” consultant Rick Williams said. He added that the city should consider making parking decisions now rather than waiting until the issue is dire as in more crowded cities such as Portland.

“The hardest thing for cities to do is prepare for the future,” he said.

Economic Development Manager Seth Sherry said some in the public may disagree with the data presented Wednesday.

“They’ll say we do have a parking problem; it’s just the days you chose weren’t good ones,” he said, going on to ask Williams his margin of error.

Williams said that the company had conducted a study in Bend and has returned to the city eight times to collect data over the course of all four seasons.

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“There was a 2 to 3% difference,” he said.

Constraint was identified in 10% of the city’s off-street parking sites. According to the report, the majority of those sites were located west of Ellsworth Street SW and were only considered constrained during the Thursday examination.

Williams highlighted the fact that even in constrained areas, available parking was within walking distance. Councilor Alex Johnson II raised concerns about relying on nearby parking.

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“Some women are not going to be comfortable walking a few blocks downtown in the dark,” he said.

Another concern raised during Wednesday’s meeting was the livability of downtown. A sudden influx of residents, Williams said, could alter the data and was an example of how the city could work now to plan for the future by implementing conditions for new construction.

Williams also said that the construction of a new parking garage could take two to four years. However, if the city worked now to identify land, funding and plans, the process could be shortened to 18 months.

Williams said the city could also alter the time period for parking. Currently, the average stay for a vehicle on all on-street spots is approximately three hours. In parking spots marked for three-hour stays, the average visit is 1 hour and 35 minutes.

The issue of parking will be revisited in September when, Williams said, the company will bring back a draft with suggestions for the city based on the data presented Wednesday.

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