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Transportation Goal 6

Automobile parking will be available in convenient locations and in sufficient quantities to meet the needs of residents, businesses and visitors.

6.1 Ensure Adequate Student Parking Availability

STRATEGY: Continue working with Shepherd University to ensure that sufficient automobile parking is available to meet the needs of their commuter students.

JUSTIFICATION: As the student body of Shepherd University has grown in recent years, so has the University’s commuter student population, which, in turn, has increased demands on public parking in town. Due to existing development patterns, there is some mismatch between available parking resources and the destinations served by a large percentage of the available on-campus parking. Recent cooperative efforts have focused on improving public access to university parking lots during non-peak hours and days, but the availability of parking for university students continues to be mismatched with desired destinations, which leads to high rates of usage of parking in the downtown area by commuter students. Moving forward, it will be important for the town to support and collaborate with the university as both entities develop and manage automobile parking resources so that each can receive the greatest benefit from their investments.

6.2 Town – University Parking Partnership

STRATEGY: Explore opportunities to partner with Shepherd University to provide public access to the University’s planned parking garage for special events and during hours and times of year when the University’s parking demand is lower.

JUSTIFICATION: As the development of a structured parking facility on the campus of Shepherd University comes closer to being a reality, it will be important for the town to secure access to the deck for special events and to support tourism during times of the year when it is not being utilized fully by the university. The addition of these spaces in closer proximity to downtown than existing remote lots in the area gives the town a significant opportunity to expand the availability of parking for visitors to town, thereby increasing the economic potential of downtown businesses and expanding the capacity of local festivals.

6.3 Expand Off-street Parking Options

STRATEGY: Identify underutilized properties on the margins of downtown Shepherdstown that could be put into more productive use for off-street parking and work with property owners to develop new parking resources through acquisition and development of parking by the town, acquiring parking leases and making necessary improvements, or by encouraging property owners to develop privately owned, but publicly accessible, paid parking lots.

JUSTIFICATION: Expanding the availability of parking on the margins of downtown, particularly on sites that may not be in use during normal business hours, such as churches, would allow downtown business owners and their employees, as well as visitors to the area, additional options to park away from the downtown core with fewer restrictions on time. This, in turn, would free up additional downtown spaces for use by customers who need to make a quick stop or have a meal, but who do not need to park for long periods of time.

6.4 Public Access to Private Parking Lots

STRATEGY: Identify opportunities for the town to partner with the owners of existing off-street parking lots to make those spaces accessible to the public as paid parking during their off-peak business hours and times of year.

JUSTIFICATION: Installing meters for use on private property, with the town responsible for enforcement and collections, would allow property owners around the downtown area to monetize their parking resources during periods when it may typically go unused. This promotes a more effective use of land versus idle parking lots, and provides a potential incentive for property owners who may not otherwise consider such an arrangement without a revenue generation component.

6.5 Promote Parking Demand Reduction

STRATEGY: Continue to support parking demand reduction policies, such as encouraging the greater use of bicycles and walking for short trips in town.

JUSTIFICATION: Expanding the supply of parking will ultimately not be able to keep up with demand as growth pressures from new development, tourism, an improving economic climate and a growing student population continue to affect the availability of parking. Therefore, encouraging less automobile use for short trips by residents by promoting walking and biking, will need to play a primary role in guaranteeing sufficient downtown parking for those patrons and visitors coming from outside of the local area.

6.6 Downtown Employee Parking

STRATEGY: Work with downtown business owners to encourage them and their employees to park in locations that are more distant from their businesses so that centrally located on-street parking spaces are left open for customers and visitors.

JUSTIFICATION: The owners of downtown businesses and their employees can have an outsized effect on the availability of parking in a downtown. Uses, such as restaurants, that have large numbers of employees, can occupy a block’s worth of parking if all of the employees parked in the most convenient locations to their jobs. Regardless of time of day, keeping on-street parking spaces available for customers and visitors to town is critical to ensuring the economic success of downtown Shepherdstown. Therefore, providing remote parking resources and reaching out to downtown business owners to encourage their use of these more distant spaces for themselves and their employees can help to ensure that customers are not discouraged by a perceived lack of parking.

6.7 Implement Tiered Approach to Parking Violations

STRATEGY: Implement a tiered parking violation penalty structure that increases the degree of penalty based on the number of violations, ranging from a warning or very low cost for an initial violation to a high penalty for repeat violations, in order to allow some permissiveness for violations by visitors to town, while ensuring that the cost is high enough so that it is prohibitively expensive to regularly violate parking regulations.

JUSTIFICATION: Enforcing parking restrictions is a critical component of managing the availability of downtown parking resources. Onerous fine structures, however, can have a negative effect on a community, particularly when applied equally to tourists or others who may not be familiar with local parking regulations. Implementing a tiered structure, utilizing a warning for first time violators, for instance, can help to ensure that parking regulations are enforced in a manner that is sensitive to the context of the violation. On the other hand, repeat violators should be given much harsher financial penalties. An individual that violates parking limits on a weekly basis can have a regular and recurring effect on the availability of parking in the community, especially If they are joined by multiple other parking violators. Therefore, a much higher financial penalty should be levied at repeat violators to help discourage regular violation of the town’s parking limits and remove any potential incentive that may be associated with a low cost ticket in relation to the cost of other parking options.