EUGENE, Ore. — Parking is a premium in any downtown area and Eugene is no exception. The city says parking is available; in fact, Parking Services has received international recognition for its innovations.
About 50,000 parking violations are issued each year with the majority near the University of Oregon. That’s down from 90,000 per year, ten years ago.
For Jeff Petry, the downtown parking services manager, it’s a positive sign. He credits the reduction in part to improved parking meters that now accept credit cards.
Other changes include parking options in downtown including free parking at designated spots, two hour parking and commercial parking. The overall goal is to keep traffic moving.
There are 15,000 parking spots in the downtown area with the majority privately owned. Petry monitors the six city managed parking structures which account for 2,000 spaces. There are another 1,000 on-street parking spots which remain after major changes.
Lane Community College’s downtown campus was built on what was once surface parking. The downtown station also squeezed out spaces. But both changes brought foot traffic into the downtown area, which is part of Envision Eugene.
In the big picture, it’s about how we are a mobile society and how we get around on various modes like bikes, buses and cars, but it’s the drivers who face the biggest challenge like along Willamette Street.
“We have two blocks here that has a total of eight parking spaces on it,” said Petry. “We have so many people coming downtown and not enough parking, we need to get them into our parking garages.”
Petry says the next major project is educating the public about parking structures and many store owners agree.
“People just don’t know. And a lot of people have this perception that it takes a long time to go into the garage and stuff, but I think it’s faster than driving around looking for a spot,” said Stacy Bierma, Harlequin Beads and Jewelry.
Overpark Garage is one to two city-managed structures where the first hour is free. All city parking structures are free after 5 p.m. on weekdays and on weekends.
The city is slowly making upgrades to the structures including Step into Theater, a collection of 30 different plays and poetry works on display in the stairwells and at elevators at Overpark.
“We’ve have received international attention by working with our community, boot strap method with limited funding to put public art up in public spaces,” Petry said.
Another change effective this month, Parking Control is now called Parking Services and anyone can call them. Instead of the manufacturer’s decal on city parking meters you’ll find the City of Eugene’s Parking Services phone number.
Petry says he receives an occasional compliment, but mostly complaints.
“At the end of the day we’ve got to park something somewhere somehow and how we interact with people helps determine the flavor of our community,” Petry said.