Changes coming for downtown Savannah parking


parkingEmilie Groover, Staff Writer

The City of Savannah’s Department of Mobility and Parking Services is conducting a study in hopes of increasing parking availability and mobility for motorists around the downtown area. The study, “Parking Matters,” began in November 2014 and focused on each part of Downtown Savannah’s infrastructure with the suggestion that the rates for some of the nearly 13,000 parking meters be raised and some lowered.

According to WSAV, the study recommends the hours of paid on-street parking be changed from its current times of 8am to 5pm, to 10am to 10pm. These times would roll over on the weekends, which currently provide free on-street parking.

Currently, parking regulations change often within the same block. The changes are the result of demand. The aspects of the study that focus on parking are trying to match availability to demand. Recommendations have also been made to replace coin-only meters with Smart technology and to use parking revenue to create bike lanes throughout the downtown area.

Despite the other suggestions, citizens of Savannah are choosing to focus on one aspect of the lengthy study: the raise in parking rates and the increase in hours for paid onstreet parking.

“Not all parts of the parking rates would be increased. There are different scenarios. People are focusing on only one or two aspects and not the entire plan. It’s a mobility and parking study,” said Valeeta McDonald, director of mobility and parking services.

The study will not be complete until May or June of this year and no changes have yet been made to parking downtown. Current proposals are initial and no official recommendations have been made.

“We are looking at mobility which includes our transportation and parking. All of the pieces fit together. It’s not about the increase in parking rates. It’s about mobility and parking. Looking at the transportation system and the infrastructure,” McDonald said.

Downtown employees worry they will be greatly affected if these recommendations become reality. These employees, specifically city employees, rarely park on the street.

“The changes should not affect me because I park in a garage and pay a monthly rate,” Dennise Campbell, a City of Savannah employee, said. Employees that do utilize on-street parking will have the option of parking in free, or un-metered, parking if suggestions made during the study go into effect.

“People who work downtown that park on meter may be positively affected. If you pay based on location instead of time you can pay the rate when you arrive in the morning, you won’t have to leave work through the day to feed the meter,” Campbell said.

The study contains two pages of recommendations to increase mobility in downtown Savannah. The ultimate goal is to make the parking system more user friendly. While everyone seems to be focusing on the changes to parking, the city is focused on improving the entire system.

“It’s not about the rate increase but the whole system,” McDonald said. The Department of Mobility and Parking Services is currently taking feedback from the community. Everyone is encouraged to read the study before making decisions regarding the proposed changes.