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Need to park in Carrboro? Changes may be coming


A car drives by the parking lot on 300 E. Main St. on Oct. 7, 2019. Carrboro is hiring a consultant to review its options regarding parking. Some of the options are paid parking, more enforcement and a parking deck.

The Carrboro Board of Aldermen is considering increasing enforcement of parking time limits, charging for parking and building a new parking deck.

In 2017, the board unanimously adopted a comprehensive report on downtown parking called the Downtown Parking Plan. The report called for no new public parking to be created in the coming 5 to 10 years, expecting that private parking would grow with demand.

For long-term goals, the report suggested looking into a parking deck and pursuing public–private partnerships, especially since 84 percent of parking spaces in downtown Carrboro are private.

This summer, the board directed town staff to study parking enforcement. In August, town staff set out to get expertise from a consultant, which will review various parking scenarios for Carrboro and best practices in other municipalities, but the town has not yet committed to anything.

Annette Stone, the Town’s economic and community development director, said two companies submitted bids: Exult Engineering and Walker Consultants. After the staff chooses one, the board will approve the contract, she said, and a preliminary report is expected in January.

At a board meeting last week, Stone gave an update about the parking study. In that session, the board did not make a motion about parking and only gave guidance about the scope of the to-be-contracted work, which is estimated to cost $48,000.

“I am a little bit disturbed that there seems to be an underlying assumption that we’re going to end up charging for parking,” board member Jacquelyn Gist said at the meeting.

Randee Haven-O’Donnell, along with other board members, stressed the importance of reaching out to the community, including neighborhoods that aren’t within a mile of downtown. Transit by car may be some residents’ only option, she said, and many people appreciate having free parking.

Parking in downtown Carrboro is free, and most public lots have two-hour time limits between 7 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. 

The 2017 report said that the Carrboro Police Department is in charge of enforcement, but its staff “is often occupied attending to other, more urgent duties.”

This allows people to regularly park in public lots for more than two hours. The report said downtown employees are likely to take up one-fifth of public spaces almost all day. However, it said the total occupancy of public lots never exceeded 71 percent.

While some people thought “parking shortage is only a perception,” the report said, others said the perception discouraged them from visiting downtown. More recently, in a survey of Carrboro businesses released in September, parking was also the most mentioned concern.

“I do know that free parking is a huge perk of the downtown Carrboro area and that it’s very limited,” said Zachary Fields, manager of The Spotted Dog Restaurant & Bar.

Board member Damon Seils said most public lots are intended to have high turnover so customers can use them.

“I want to learn more about what it would mean to enforce our time limits on those lots,” he said. “How would that open up parking for customers of downtown businesses?”

Board members still need to figure out what days and times paid parking would be enforced, if it gets implemented, and how people would pay.

Carrboro Mayor Lydia Lavelle said a parking structure would lead to paid parking everywhere — otherwise, she said, drivers wouldn’t use the structure. But the specifics of that structure still need to be discussed.

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