It seems like 100 ideas are circulating around City Hall about how to transform the downtown.
Underpasses and overpasses. Changing one-way streets to two ways. Incorporating bike lanes. Adding quiet zones for trains.
One of the simplest to try out, says Ron Griffith, a city traffic engineer, is back-in angle parking.
What? Council member Chuck Wieneke asked Griffith. “That scares me to death,” Wieneke told Griffith at last night’s City Council meeting.
Wouldn’t motorists be more apt to hit cars already parked if they backing in? he wondered. Don’t they back over curbs?
Griffith, who heads up a nine-member task force looking at downtown transportation issues, noted that the concept of back-in angle parking has been around and has been used successfully for 30 or more years. Des Moines, he said, is currently conducting a pilot back-in parking project in its downtown, he said.
Transit officials there, he added, thought that parking meters would be dropping left and right, but they haven’t been.
Griffith said the maneuver for back-in angle parking is similar to parallel parking, only you just angle in, you don’t straighten the vehicle out. The benefit is that you drive straight out of the parking spot, so you aren’t blocking traffic the way you do when you back out of an angle parking slot. Another advantage in a bicycle-friendly downtown, he said, is that you are far less likely to strike a passing bicyclist if you are not backing out of the slot.
In recent years, the city has mixed in some forward-in angle parking, and Griffith reported that the city has experienced fewer accidents with the angle parking than traffic studies suggest it should.
Council member Monica Vernon says she’s not too sure about the back-in idea. Too many kinds of parking downtown might be confusing, she says. Maybe adding more forward-in angle parking would make more sense, she says.
Griffith says Vernon has a point about too-many styles of parking. But he adds that it might make sense to change all angle parking downtown to back-in: It has advantages, he says. It would be easy, too, he adds, to set up a trial to see what the public thought.
Vernon says she most wants something to happen downtown this construction season.
“There’s pent-up demand” for people to see some progress, she told Griffith.