Bend council OKs new downtown parking strategy

Meters could return, if off-street lots fill up

Parking study could alter Downtown...

BEND, Ore. - Some days are easier than others, but parking in downtown Bend can be difficult. The Bend City Council unanimously approved a strategic parking management plan Wednesday evening in a bid to make it easier to find an open space for downtown visitors.

The parking study was finished last month and city Economic Development Director Carolyn Eagan said it is a common asset that needs to be managed thoughtfully so everyone can use it well. 

"Once parking is 85 percent full, you need to do something different," Eagan said. "So imagine Target on a regular Tuesday, and then Target on Christmas Eve, right? --, 85 percent rule, it's totally booked."

Eagan said that 85 percent capacity has affected certain areas downtown, such as the Mirror Pond parking lots in particular. There are more than 5,800 parking stalls in the downtown study area, with just over 1,800 of them on the street. An advisory group of 13 citizens decided that customers must come first. 

"On-street parking, on Bond Street and on Wall Stree, should be reserved for visitors," Eagan said. "So, if I am getting my nails done, if I am coming in for dinner, or if I am picking up legal papers, those parking stalls on Wall and Bond should be turning over really quickly."

Basically, the most visible and accessible parking will be available to customers. But the city will work with businesses to accommodate the workers who need to park all day.

Eagan said the point of the study is to make a more efficient and organized parking system in downtown Bend to get the right parkers into the right parking spots. 

Since certain areas are breaching the 85 percent rule, the city can start charging people to park. Some of those changes include eliminating the three-hour free parking in the garage and charging hourly from arrival (not after two hours) in the Mirror Pond lots.

Eagan said meters along Wall and Bond would only be considered if all the off-street lots started to fill. That's at least three to four years down the road, she said. 

Eventually, the city hopes to have a downtown transit system, more bike parking, and walking opportunities. In the next few months, the city will adopt plans around city management and complete a fee study. 

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