Parking in Takoma Park: Studying spaces
By Helen Lyons
Takoma Park is doing a comprehensive review of all of its parking practices in response to new development and changes in some of the parking pressures, as well as management in the City, says Erkin Ozberk, the City’s senior planner for Housing and Community Development.
“We’re taking a look at everything we do, and we’re trying to bring it up to speed and be more proactive,” Ozberk explained.
The study covers parking issues, including meters, handicap parking, residential parking permit (RPP) zones, commercial vehicle parking, parking “hot spots,” enforcement and City Code and regulations.
Many of the pressures are particularly felt in Ward 1, where recent development in the Old Town area of Takoma Park is one factor that has contributed to increased traffic and demand for parking. “There are parking challenges in Montgomery College, Takoma Park Elementary School and at times around the Presbyterian church on Tulip Avenue,” said Councilmember Peter Kovar (Ward 1). “In Ward 1, just about every street and every block has a different parking issue of some concern, and it’s quite local in that sense, so we’re going to have to find a policy that works for the city but is also sensitive to the specific concerns that arise in these areas.”
Kovar is already seeking solutions across the DC boundary and hopes that the parking study will help in his efforts. “I’ve reached out to the city council member from Ward 4 of the District of Columbia,” Kovar said, “to talk about whether there are ways, through more collaboration between Takoma Park and the district, that we could get a better common approach to parking in Old Town.”
Laura Barclay, the executive director of the Old Takoma Business Association, said that people were concerned that maximum capacity was being reached in the commercial district, but that “based on studies during peak and nonpeak times, it’s been shown that there are definitely still spaces available.”
“That doesn’t minimize the fact that there are indeed pressure spots or areas that still have parking challenges, where parking isn’t readily available or easily noticeable,” Barclay added.
Her ideas for solutions include additional cross-jurisdictional signage and efforts online on behalf of businesses and the City to include more information about available parking on their websites. “We’ve been thinking about this for a long time,” Barclay said, “so it was good to see the study and get it all official.”
The study builds on survey results, community input and grant-funded research and mapping.
Residents completing the survey can check off which items being considered for review in the study they consider a priority, such as “supporting opportunities for car-share and ride-hailing” or “improvements to bike and pedestrian facilities.”
“There’s some tension between providing ample parking and providing alternatives to driving,” said Joe Edgell, the chair of the City’s Safe Roadways Committee. “One of the City Council’s directives when they set up the Safe Roadways Committee was to provide people alternatives to driving. If there are plenty of places to park, people will be encouraged to drive.”
Edgell pointed to the benefits of cutting back on car use. “It reduces pollution locally,” he said. “It’s far healthier to walk and bike than use your car, and it’s cheaper. It’s better for the environment; it’s better for the people. Communities are more livable if they have fewer cars. Study after study proves this.”
If is parking is readily available, Edgell said, people would have less incentive to not drive.
“If you want to get people out of their cars, you need to make it easier for them to not use their cars or harder for them to use the cars – one of the two. The City wants to be responsive to its voters. People want ample parking, but that has secondary effects. It’s good that we’re looking at this issue comprehensively, but the difficult decision is the one the City Council has to make: Okay, now what do we do with this data?”
Senior Planner Erkin Ozberk hopes to present the recommendations that come as a result of the parking study to the City Council in January. “Now is the time for folks to look at the information that’s been posted,” Ozberk said, “and let us know how they feel about it.”
To learn more about the parking study and submit their comments, residents can go to takomaparkmd.gov/parking-study.
This article appeared in the November 2016 edition of the Takoma Park Newsletter. The Takoma Park Newsletter is available for download here.