On Tuesday, December 8, the Eau Claire City Council voted to accept the City of Eau Claire Comprehensive Parking Study. The report passed unanimously in a 10-0 vote with Councilman John Lor absent from the meeting. The parking study focused on three areas within Eau Claire and analyzed the current use of parking in the city, the city’s parking operations, parking restrictions and rates, and the city’s parking supply and demand. While Councilman Jeremy Gragert did raise some concerns about the study, he also acknowledged some recommendations would prove helpful to the city.
The study provided short-term, mid-term, and long-term recommendations for Eau Claire's parking management. For the short-term, the study recommends the city dedicate a full-time parking manager, revamp their parking policies and procedures, conduct a market rate study, and create a dedicating parking web page and a branding and marketing campaign. For the mid-term, the study recommends the city establish a parking leadership structure to combine parking and enforcement, strategic planning for the Gibson/Farewell Garage Removal, web-based mapping utilizing GIS, updates of ordinances to include residential parking programs, and a Downtown parking asset inventory. Finally, for the long-term, the study recommends the city put together a strategic plan for 5+ years out that includes establishing ordinance updates and construction phasing and parker impact assessment for the Gibson/Farewell Garage Demolition.
WGI began the study in March of 2019. It was noted that the parking study was conducted when the City Hall was being remodeled, and therefore, not fully occupied. It focused on three areas within Eau Claire. Area 1 is the Downtown/Riverfront District, Area 2 is the Third Ward Neighborhood District, and Area 3 is the Water Street, Historic Randall Park, and Cannery District. WGI also conducted public listening sessions for each of the three areas studied in Eau Claire and an online survey.
Using the guidelines provided by WGI, the City of Eau Claire took inventory of the total weekday parking available in the three study areas. Morning, afternoon, and evening were the three observation times of the study. Industry standards consider parking to be effectively full when parking is above 85% capacity. In all three areas, the average peak occurred during the morning hours. In the Downtown/Riverfront District area parking was considered low, or 0-50% occupied. In the Third Ward Neighborhood District, however, parking was effectively full near the university but low in the north and east parts of the neighborhood. Finally, in the Water Street, Historic Randall Park, and Cannery District, parking occupancy was clustered. Parking lots were considered medium, or 51-75% occupied, but were effectively full near the County Courthouse. There was also a low occupancy for on-street parking in this area while being effectively full near the University, County Government Center, and the Mayo Clinic Health Systems.
The three public listening studies found a common concern of the lack of parking enforcement for on-street parking. The Downtown/Riverfront District had several questions about the future of the Gibson/Farewell Garage and the impact it would have on the parking supply. Institutional parking enforcement into Third Ward and Historical Randall Park Neighborhood was also a concern.
The online survey had a notable 1,542 respondents. The survey found that 30% of visitors visiting the downtown area were customers or employees, 83% of the respondents own a vehicle, and less than 15% used public transportation. 60% of respondents were also affiliated with UWEC with 50% of these respondents parking on‐street. Finally, 70% of the respondents were okay with walking three blocks to arrive at their destination.
The study found that parking communication and online presence is focused on enforcement and citations. While enforcement is needed for compliance, parking meters are often out of service, and parking policies do not target the specific zones where parking enforcement is desired. In addition, the current parking technology is outdated and unreliable, and necessary data is not available to aid in business decision making and planning. A parking marketing campaign should be developed to communicate the location and availability of parking. With the lack of branding, marketing, and wayfinding, drivers are unaware of available parking throughout Eau Claire. However, Third Ward on-street parking is dominated by University associated parking. As a result, parking policies and decisions should evolve to the changing demands of the three areas.
Councilman Jeremy Gragert raised a few concerns he had about the study at Tuesday’s City Council Meeting. Gragert felt that not much was learned from the study and was disappointed because additional studies would still need to be conducted. In addition, Gragert believed the parking study failed to address the primary needs of the city such as the parking ramps downtown. Leah Ness, the deputy city engineer addressed this concern saying the study provided ideas for other potential locations for parking structures Downtown. Despite these concerns, however, Gragert voted to accept the report.
Comprehensive Parking Study Update (City of Eau Claire, WGI, 34 pages)
Monday agenda packet (Dec 7, 7 p.m., Public Hearing, 93 pages)
Tuesday agenda packet (Dec 8, 4 p.m. Legislative Session, 172 pages)
Eau Claire City Council Meeting - December 7 and 8 (Video Recording: Valley Media Works)
Posted by Grace Hanson, Governmental Affairs Intern
Eau Claire Chamber
The Eau Claire Chamber of Commerce has more than 1,200 members.