The city of Frederick will need a new parking deck downtown, whether the proposed downtown hotel and conference center is built, according to a study.
The mayor and aldermen heard Wednesday an analysis of current parking demand, likely future demand and the potential impacts of variable pricing and transit options.
The Walker Parking Consultants study found that the parking decks are at 85 percent capacity. Planned developments such as the hotel and conference center are expected to increase that demand significantly.
The hotel and conference center would have 100 parking spaces, but it would generate a demand of up to 540 vehicles.
Other developments will increase demand by up to a combined 680 spaces over the next decade, according to the study.
A proposed parking deck at the Visitors Center and Frederick County Public Schools office parking lot would provide 650 spaces, about half of which would go to the Board of Education, according to Andrew Vidor of Walker Parking Consultants.
While there are options that could reduce or delay the need for Parking Deck 6, Vidor said, the study indicates that it will be necessary to accommodate future demand, regardless of a hotel being built.
“No matter how you slice it, at some point Parking Deck 6 will need to be constructed,” he said.
The hotel will play a pivotal role in determining when the $13 million deck will need to be built, he continued, because it is the development expected to generate the most demand.
About $1.92 million will need to come out of the parking fund in the first year of the project to cover debt services and operating expenses.
There was $33 million available in the parking fund balance in fiscal 2014.
Alderwoman Kelly Russell noted that Frederick is planning to rebuild the Church Street Parking Deck and asked what effect this investment would have on that project.
“Can we do both?” she asked. “We need to have that conversation at some point.”
The study evaluated the feasibility of variable pricing to encourage people to park in areas other than the East All Saints Street and Carroll Creek garages. That act could help free up spaces for hotel and conference center users.
However, the analysis found that raising monthly parking rates in those garages would not get a significant number of drivers to park elsewhere.
Commuting options that could reduce the demand on parking included a downtown circulator and bringing back a park-and-ride system.
The circulator would be a trolley-like vehicle that would loop around Market Street downtown and up to Hood College weekdays from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. and weekends from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Walker Parking Consultants estimated the circulator would require $717,600 in annual operating costs and a capital investment of between $100,000 and $250,000.
“I think the prospect of the circulator is exciting, and I hope it can happen sooner rather than later,” Russell said.
The park-and-ride would be based at the Harry Grove Stadium parking lot and run from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. with buses coming every 15 minutes during peak commuting times and 30 minutes other times of the day.
The annual operating costs would be around $312,000.
City transportation planner Tim Davis noted that the peak usage of the previous park-and-ride system was about 250 people a day.
Richard Griffin, the city’s director of economic development, said the system could be replicated on the north side of town to help commuters avoid traversing the city.
Peter Samuel, who has owned private garages, criticized the report for being based on vague data and being dismissive of price differentials.
He called Parking Deck 6 risky to the parking budget and said upgrading meters and evaluating free Sunday parking were probably more pressing needs.
Kara Norman, of the Downtown Frederick Partnership, supported the circulator and park-and-ride, but also encouraged the city to look at parking solutions for the North Market Street area.