Don’t panic over parking garage

It is troubling that the first floor of Grand Junction’s two-and a a-half-year-old parking garage is so often nearly empty. A vacancy rate of 92 percent, as has been the case so far this month, is not indicative of high public acceptance of the parking facility.

But the vacancy rate on the first floor of the parking garage may actually be due to the success of the top three floors of the structure.

Simply put, the top three floors of the garage — used by city employees or workers with local businesses — keep more than 250 vehicles each day from using on-street parking in the downtown area. And that means 250-plus parking spots are generally available on downtown streets that would likely be filled by people working downtown if the parking garage hadn’t been built. As a result, motorists heading downtown for a temporary visit usually can find a parking spot without utilizing the parking garage.

Alpine Bank, which contributed to the construction cost of the parking garage, leases one floor of the structure for its employees. The city of Grand Junction uses some of the upper-level spaces for its employees, and leases other spaces on a monthly basis to other businesses.

There are undoubtedly other factors that influence people’s decisions to park somewhere other than the parking garage. For one thing, some people just don’t like the cavernous atmosphere of a parking structure, and prefer to leave their vehicles outside on sunny streets. Also, the pay system at the parking structure requires motorists to walk to one end of the structure to pay. It isn’t as user-friendly as dropping a few coins in a parking meter right next to one’s car.

Even so, when there is a downtown event that attracts a lot of vehicles and parking is harder to come by, the public parking on the first level is well-utilized, said Heidi Hoffman Ham, executive director of the Downtown Development Authority.

“I don’t think most people don’t like the parking garage,” Ham said. “It’s just that they can usually find a place on the streets.”

The city should consider changes to make the parking structure more attractive to motorists, such as improving the pay system and reducing the cost of parking there. Charging 25 cents an hour and having the first level half full would be better than the current 50 cents an hour, with the structure virtually empty.

And people should recognize one major reason parking is so readily available on downtown streets these days is because the parking garage has been successful in getting so many vehicles of downtown workers off the streets.


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