On a Saturday morning when the Farmington Farmers and Artisans Market is in full swing, does it seem like there isn't a parking spot to be had in downtown Farmington?
Andrew Vidor, representing Walker Parking Consultants, told members of the City of Farmington Parking Advisory Committee Thursday that parking capacity isn't just at a premium – it's stretched to the limit. By 12 p.m. on a Farmers Market Saturday last October, demand for parking exceeded capacity by 60 spaces.
On weekdays, parking hits 64 percent of capacity overall, leaving 202 spaces open. On weekends, nearly three-quarters of spaces are taken, leaving 134 across the central business district.
"That's a 37 percent increase since 2008," Vidor said.
Breaking down the numbers shows public lots at 87 percent of capacity on weekend nights. Vidor said opening new restaurants or other types of businesses in the few available storefronts could quickly change the picture. The system, he said, is operating at "maximum capacity."
"It's a good problem to have for a downtown," Vidor added. "It means the downtown is vibrant. People want to be here."
The city commissioned the study to update a 2008 Walker report. Since that time, downtown Farmington has undergone some dramatic changes, from increased attendance at the Farmington Civic Theater and Farmers Market, to the addition of Fresh Thyme Farmers Market and several restaurants. In addition, the city implemented time-limited parking in some public lots.
Vidor said studies showed that the vast majority of people parking in time-limited lots stayed longer than the 3-hour limit. No more than four percent parked four hours or longer. There were no violations on time-limited, on-street parking spaces.
"That's a very high compliance rate," Vidor said.
The study concluded that "non-compliant parkers… are likely employees of downtown businesses who either are not being ticketed or who are legally beating the system" by moving their vehicles to different spaces or lots. Recommended strategies included an ordinance that defines "re-parking," expanded enforcement in the Fresh Thyme parking lot (where three percent of parkers violate the limit), increased enforcement in lots north of Grand River, and continuing to provide parking information to employees.
While the report did not identify a "silver bullet," it did outline one possible solution: a three-story parking structure.
Next: How and where might the city add parking in downtown Farmington?