The first of a series of public meetings on the issue of parking was held Tuesday night as part of the city's study on the subject, which will be used to plan for future revitalization projects as well as improve existing situations.
Representatives from Desman Associates laid out the course of action for the approximately 45 residents and city officials in attendance.
The company will be looking at all aspects of parking in the city, starting with the Downtown, but also scrutinizing other parts of the city, such as near the county courthouse in the West Ward.
“We know residents are being impacted,” said Greg Shumate, an associate for Desman.
Also on the list is the management of the Pine Street parking garage, which the company said might be made “more user friendly.”
Over the coming weekend, company representatives will fan out over the city and make observations about parking habits in the city, including those of residents, business owners and visitors, as well as conducting on-the-spot surveys to find out people's feelings about the city's parking amenities.
“Everyone has a different perspective on parking...and a different need for parking,” Shumate said.
The company will also be meeting with representatives from various stakeholders in the city, such as businesses, restaurants, property owners and others over the course of the study, expected to run for about 10 or 11 weeks.
Desman Associates will also be looking at the management side of things and make recommendations to the city about how to more efficiently run the city's parking system.
“Parking oftentimes in a city is fragmented so there's not always a good sense of what it is really costing you,” Shumate said. “There's so much that needs attending to in a parking system—not all cities are equipped to deal with that.”
The company's recommendations will be entirely based on what they find in Easton, Timothy Tracy, executive vice president for Desman, promised.
“We're really here to focus on Easton,” Tracy said. “We want to suggest what works for Easton...We want to work with the community at large, but we don't know what that is yet.”
Tracy added that parking meters were originally designed to regulate the use of public space, and the revenue created from them was a side-effect.
“It's certainly evolved since then, but sometimes it's good to get back to basics,” he said, noting that parking has an impact on nearly every aspect of a city. “Easton seems to be at the cusp of an economic turn. We need to embrace that...We think parking should enhance it, not hinder it.”
To that effect, the company plans to look at parking supply and demand, analyze the feasibility of future development of parking facilities, analyze the situation at the Pine Street garage, develop a strategic plan for parking management, develop financial projections, and finally, report back to the city the consolidated findings of all their efforts, hopefully before the end of the year.
Four more public meetings will be planned as the study progresses, though dates have not yet been set.
The public is also invited to submit their observations and suggestions via a designated email address, to be posted on the city's website by week's end.
While it's too early to tell what the recommendations will be, members of the public and city officials made some suggestions and speculated on the study's outcome.
“Do we take everything out of the city's hands and put it in the hands of the parking authority?” said Mayor Sal Panto, noting that currently there are two police officers in the city who's sole job it is to handle parking and traffic issues. “The day to day operation could be handled much more efficiently, we think.”