For Goldenites who park downtown regularly, seeing that challenge play out like a board game was probably a bit surreal.
At the Jan. 31 “Howdy Downtown” community meeting, city staff members, residents and downtown employees examined the current parking predicament and possible management strategies with a unique exercise that was like a board game. The meeting and the exercise were part of the city’s ongoing downtown parking study, which is scheduled to wrap up this summer.
In the game, participants were given downtown destinations and had to determine where would be the best places to park as close to their destinations as possible, while also considering parking availability, time limits and paid parking requirements. Parking availability was based on data from a 2022 summer weekend around lunchtime.
Along with destinations and objectives, participants also received parking strategy cards to help increase parking availability in certain areas. Whether it was a circulator shuttle, enhanced parking enforcement or incentivizing alternate transportation, participants saw how some strategies benefitted everyone, while others didn’t.
The game didn’t have winners or losers per se, but was more a way to encourage discussion and help see the city’s current challenges and possible solutions, principal planner Matt Wempe explained.
“We want people to understand the challenges that come with managing parking, which is a limited resource in our downtown environment,” he said.
The game of life
In discussing real-life solutions, participants seemed to prefer some strategies over others. The circulator system, incentivizing alternate transportation and electronic signage were the most popular.
The free Clear Creek lot with the free circulator shuttle was well-received both as an option in the game and in real life, and several residents said they wanted more options for walking or biking into downtown.
Staff members confirmed the city and Colorado School of Mines are launching a pilot shuttle program this spring, which would help everyone get to their destinations while minimizing walking. Details are still being finalized, but associate planner Lauren McKinney said there will likely be stops at the Golden Community Center and the free Clear Creek parking lot.
Additionally, the city plans to resume its bike library in the coming months and has discussed an e-bike rebate program as well, McKinney added.
Wempe mentioned that signage would also help people find open parking spots or parking areas. He said the parking garages aren’t as well-utilized as they could be, because some people find their regulations and kiosks confusing. Thus, the on-street parking and surface lots are overused.
Meeting participants brought up tubers, with both staff and residents discussing how tubers take up a lot of parking, typically don’t like to pay for it, and what parking areas or management options would be best serve them too. The circulator shuttle, Wempe said, would benefit them.
Mobility was also a consideration, with some participants acknowledging that they don’t mind walking farther to their real-life destinations, but realize that’s not an option for everyone.
The rideshare pick-up/drop-off areas, the valet parking in surface lots and increasing the parking supply seemed to be the least popular real-life strategies. Some participants felt the first two would just add to the congestion downtown. The latter, which involved building a new parking lot or parking structure, left people wondering where it would be.
The next steps
Along with the downtown parking study, the “Howdy Downtown” meeting also featured information on the city’s bike and pedestrian master plan and the seasonal outdoor business program.
Both those items are scheduled for discussion at the Feb. 14 City Council meeting.
As for the downtown parking study, it likely won’t be finalized until June, Wempe said. The staff members and city consultants are still in the data-collection phase, but will start looking at management strategies based on stakeholders’ feedback.
Staff will be taking its findings to the Planning Commission and the Mobility & Transportation Advisory Board in the coming months. The final step will be City Council approval, which Wempe estimated would be sometime this summer.
Staff encouraged any residents, downtown employees or other stakeholders to participate in its ongoing parking surveys, especially if they weren’t able to attend the Jan. 31 meeting.
A public survey and a separate survey for downtown employees, along with additional information on the parking study, are available at guidinggolden.com/downtown-parking-study.