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Opinion: There Are No Short North Parking Problems

Jason Powell Jason Powell Opinion: There Are No Short North Parking ProblemsThe Hub Garage is half empty on a busy summer Sunday at dinner time — Photo by Walker Evans.
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As a Short North resident of six years and a visitor for over ten, I can conclude that there is not much of a parking issue – it is more of a perceived issue.

I can go out on a Gallery Hop night at 8pm and find a spot pretty easily up on the north end of the district around Starr Avenue. There is no issue that I can see during the day time because a smaller number of people shop during the workday — I can typically find a spot right on High Street. Using the weekend crowd as the maximum benchmark for evening traffic, the neighborhood pretty much reaches its critical mass already. Everybody seems to find their way to the Short North for food and drink, so the restaurants and bars at capacity have little to worry about. The ones that are not at capacity might need to change their menu or beer list. Most retail businesses aren’t open after 7-9 pm, so there is no need to make it convenient for more shoppers in the evening.

So what are the solutions?

Well, for one, add more residents to the area. This adds feet to the street at all times of the day, not just peak hours. (And tell the neighborhood commissions to stop shrinking all of the proposed projects!) Anyone claiming that residential growth exacerbates these challenges makes little sense seeing as though pretty much every project in and around the Short North provides its own on-site parking.

We should also encourage a better regional transportation system to shuttle suburbanites down to urban Columbus.

Lastly, we need to build another parking garage. There should be three, one at the south end, one in the middle, and one at the north end. The one at the south end is being constructed. The one in the middle already exists. Now find some space up north for a third.

I recently took a trip to Charleston, South Carolina. Anyone who has ever been to King Street can attest to the fact that you can only do so much when it comes to parking. King Street is one of the premiere East Coast shopping destinations, attracting more tourists than actual residents. There are extremely tight quarters there with thin streets and even thinner sidewalks to handle the massive amount of people – most of which have little idea how to navigate the city. There are very few vacant lots left, and parking is a nightmare. The city allows for limited street parking and provides scattered parking structures, a few of which are located on King Street. Residents compete for parking just the same as they do here. After all of that, people decide whether or not they want to brave the labyrinth. And the thing is… most do. Why? Because the city makes it worth it by having top notch shopping and dining. The Short North is worth it for many of the same reasons and will only gain traction with an increase in people visiting.

Many free parking spaces are open on Summit Street on a busy summer Sunday at dinner time — Photo by Walker Evans.

Many free parking spaces are open on Summit Street on a busy summer Sunday at dinner time — Photo by Walker Evans.

So, there will always be a parking “problem” in the Short North as long as it maintains its destination status. As the neighborhood continues to add population and attract more visitors, any solutions to reconfigure current parking will amount to little and will be short lived.

The sad truth is that most people are just lazy and walking more than a block is looked at as an “inconvenience” and that will never change. Not to mention the fact that our regional transportation system is pretty lousy, so getting to The Short North by car is the only option for many.

It’s the same story in any city’s high profile neighborhood. And the world keeps turning… and honking.

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