A recent survey confirms what anyone who drives to Montpelier already knows: Parking is a nightmare.
And that problem is about to get worse.
The city is planning an urban, multi-modal transit center and park on the Carr Lot along River Street that will eat up 100 spaces. Construction is set to begin in October 2014.
Hence the survey … in preparation for more blowback from state employees, legislative hangers on, business owners and residents.
John Hollar, mayor of Montpelier, says the survey reinforces “what we know.”
“People are concerned about the lack of available parking in Montpelier,” Hollar said. “There are no easy answers.”
If perception is reality, Montpelier has a serious problem. A majority of the 1,200 Survey Monkey respondents say parking is difficult to find. Sixty-five percent of consumers say the shortage of parking spaces makes it hard to shop downtown. Eighty-seven percent of renters say the availability of spaces is a determining factor in where they decide to live.
Meanwhile, 79 percent of commuters to the capital drive to work. Thousands of workers for the state travel in each day, and the total number has increased by 400 over the last year since the Agency of Natural Resources moved its operations to the National Life insurance company headquarters, which already houses the Agency of Commerce and Community Development and the Agency of Transportation.
The Department of Buildings and General Services issued a report in January that shows there are about 2,600 state employees in Montpelier and about 2,000 parking spaces at the Capitol Complex and National Life.
The state is short about 600 parking spaces for state employees at the two locations when the Legislature is not in session. During the peak Statehouse months, January through April, when lawmakers, lobbyists, activists and journalists arrive en masse, the total parking deficit is about 840 spaces.
Last spring, state workers, the city and the Legislature held a hearing at the Statehouse to try to come up with a solution. The most obvious — building a garage — is out of the question, according to state and city officials.
Michael Obuchowski, the commissioner of the Department of Buildings and General Services, told the assembled that a garage would be costly ($25,000 per parking space) and would need to be rebuilt in 15 years because of winter deterioration factors. A garage that would hold up longer, he said, would be even more expensive to build.
“The construction of a parking garage is a last choice option in my opinion,” Obuchowski told the audience that packed the House Chamber in March.
Hollar says a garage, long term, would be the best solution, but at a time when the state is building a new psychiatric hospital and state office complex, a garage in Montpelier is somewhere down near the bottom of the list.
“Garages are expensive, and parking rates don’t pay for them — they require subsidies,” Hollar said. “But the benefit to the city and the state would justify a subsidy for it.”
The only garage in town, at City Center, is no longer available for public parking. State and federal workers who occupy the upper stories of the mini mall lease all of the spaces.
For people who live in Montpelier, the biggest issue is the winter parking ban. No vehicles are allowed to stay on the streets overnight as of Nov. 15. The ban is in effect through April 1.
The Montpelier Parking Committee, which conducted the survey, is hoping to create additional emergency parking lots for residents.