An illustrated guide to downtown Savannah parking

[This post was originally made on June 27th, 2011, but I have comments about the widespread availability of downtown parking in my column today.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.

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3 comments for “An illustrated guide to downtown Savannah parking

  1. Matthew
    June 27, 2011 at 10:16 pm

    As you alluded to, one of my favorites is the ‘taxi stand’ areas. Firstly, have you EVER seen a taxi in savannah waiting for a fare?! You can’t get one if you call and reserve one. And to take up two spots on JOHNSON Square? Are you kidding me? And the passenger loading zones. How does that help any business to have a spot out front that you are allowed to park in, sortof, maybe briefly. I have been working downtown a lot this month and have been really dumbfounded by the new rates, especially since I have been on the edges of the district- 400 block of east Oglethorpe and 100 block of Gaston. The amount of quarters I go through for four employees is insane. As you said, that rate might make sense in some portions of the district, but not all over.

  2. August 4, 2011 at 8:06 pm

    Thanks for the link to this post on my post, Bill! You make excellent points here. Cars IN AND OF THEMSELVES are not necessarily bad… it’s how they’re used. We need to get smarter on this issue, rather than treating it in knee-jerk fashion. (“The Importance of On-Street Parking”)

  3. Evan
    August 5, 2011 at 11:44 am

    I’ve been working on a downtown plan in Pendleton, Oregon for more than a year. In spite of statistical evidence from professional consultants, our downtown merchants are convinced that we do not have enough parking downtown. So I decided to hop on my bike and ride through downtown with my helmet cam on during the lunch hour to see just how many spaces were occupied/free. It was very revealing. You can find the first one here:
    Others are also posted.
    Our downtown merchants complain that they want the Farmers market out of downtown because it hurts their business. What I found was that there are more cars (and people) downtown for the FM after 5:00 (when all the stores are closed) than there are during the lunch hour when the stores are open.

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