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Watsonville Downtown Parking Study

Watsonville, California
Firm Role
Parking and transportation demand management planning, data collection and modeling
2016-2018, adopted 2018
140 acres

In historic downtown Watsonville, revitalization initiatives had begun to bear fruit. But economic analyses had concluded that the city’s minimum parking regulations were incompatible with its vision of a pedestrian-friendly, mixed-use downtown. On small lots, compliance with the rules was practically impossible. Changing the rules ran up against a perception that parking was in short supply. To address this challenge, the city commissioned a parking master plan.

Patrick Siegman led the project team, while a principal at Nelson\Nygaard Consulting. The work included stakeholder interviews; a comprehensive parking inventory and occupancy study; and building a spreadsheet-based model to project future parking supply, demand, revenues, and costs.

Our analysis found that 47% of the parking supply sat vacant at even the busiest hour. Curb parking on popular blocks filled up, but garages a few yards away sat half-empty. The model forecast made it clear that existing supplies could easily accommodate future demand. The data and analyses helped the community arrive at a clear consensus: focus on better management of existing parking.

To end the perceived shortage and the parking system’s budget deficit, the plan recommends demand-based prices for popular curb parking spots. Leasing underused private lots for use as shared public parking will make better use of existing asphalt. Real-time parking wayfinding signs will direct drivers to underused garages. Revitalization will be eased by removing minimum parking rules for existing buildings. Assessing the highest and best use of public parking lots will identify lots that may be appropriate to sell or lease, improving city finances and adding life to downtown. Strong transportation demand management rules advance the city’s sustainability goals.

The plan was adopted by the city in February 2018. Initial implementation steps, including converting excess spaces to outdoor dining, and selling a surplus city lot to enable new Main Street buildings, have been completed.

Images courtesy of the City of Watsonville