[This post was originally made on June 27th, 2011, but I have comments about the widespread availability of downtown parking in my column today. You’ll find that parking patterns on weekdays during the month of December are very similar to those in June. This is a vital issue for Savannah’s downtown.]
After another online exchange about parking in downtown Savannah, I decided to hop on my bike and take photos as I rode north from my house in Thomas Square.
I’ve been thinking of doing this for a long time to fight misinformation about parking in Savannah.
A few key points:
- There are plenty of parking spaces — both on the street and in garages — available in downtown Savannah.
- There is a structural problem of too few on-street spaces in areas where people most want to park and ample spaces in less desirable areas. The highest demand areas are those further north and west in Historic District; the same could largely be said regarding traffic.
- Many of downtown Savannah’s parking areas are timed, priced, restricted, or managed in ways that discourage their use, which does huge damage to the downtown economy.
I took all of these photos between 2 and 3 p.m. last Wednesday. One could argue that there has been a dramatic uptick in demand in some of these areas now that SCAD’s summer session has started, but the summer demand is marginal at best. Yes, there is more demand for parking in some of these spots in the spring and fall, but last Wednesday was a pretty typical work day. Offices and retail businesses were open. It seemed a good week for tourism too.
In short, the photos here reflect the on-the-ground reality of long stretches of the year.
Let me add the following: I would love it if Savannah were so busy and vibrant that a war on cars would be justified. Check out this piece from today’s NYT: Across Europe, Irking Drivers Is Urban Policy. But American cities like Savannah lack the downtown residential density and adequate public transportation to discourage local area residents from driving. Making it harder and more expensive for local drivers to access downtown will only give even more of an edge to businesses that appeal primarily to tourists, which will further reduce the desirability of living downtown.
So here are the photos I took. If you hover over each, you can read my captions without actually enlarging the photo.
Obvious conclusion: In large portions of the Historic District, current demand does not justify the current prices or time limits.