Park It Here! Downtown Terre Haute

The 74 pages of the most recent study of parking in downtown Terre Haute numbers 21 more than the highest percentage of occupancy it reports. Got it?

Let’s put it another way: take the number of studies (7) done on parking in downtown Terre Haute consulted by the current studiers of the topic, multiply it by 4 and you’ll have approximately the percentages of spaces available for parking at the busiest hour of the day. Still not clear?

Oh, sorry – we have been unduly influenced by the figures in the study, and how they are presented over and over. Cut out the redundancy, the empty pages and big ugly headings before each section, and the photographs of a few downtown businesses, and this report could’ve occupied about a third of the pages it takes up.

In fact, the report could have said simply this: there are plenty of empty parking spaces in downtown Terre Haute, any time, any day. Who paid an Indianapolis engineering company to come over and count them and report at length?

And why must this be done over and over? American Consulting studied our parking in 2000, finding a total of 708 spaces, and making some suggestions that would bump the number up to 787. Hyett Palma produced a “Downtown Action Agenda” in 2002. We sure hope they got a bit of a premium in their paycheck for the cute title, although the actions they advocated are rather vague: more on-street parking, for example. Might that be achieved by adding more streets, or what?

Storrow Kinsella shared their “Vision Plan” in 2009. Part of what they saw for the future was an agency that would “aim to meet the parking demand and eliminate the

perception that private landowners need to provide private parking downtown.” This causes us to envision a uniformed force roaming the downtown on the lookout for people complaining there’s no place to park and telling them “Look here, buddy, that local business owner doesn’t owe you a parking space. Now move along or I’ll ticket you for unreasonable expectations.”

A survey of downtown merchants in the current study (which also includes references to four previous plans in addition to the ones we’ve mentioned) reveals that the business owners have the most unreasonable expectations of all. 54% of downtown merchants want both customers and employees to walk one block or less to their business. How exactly is that going to work? Clearly, there are a limited number of spaces on each block. Cars can’t park on top of each other. Let’s be reasonable.

According to HWC Engineering and Traffic Engineering Inc., “In a 2008 study by Smith & Butcher titled ‘How Far Should Parkers Have to Walk?’ it was determined that 1,200 feet was the maximum distance people would typically walk in a Central Business District. Many similar studies have been completed, but there is no magic bullet and no universal agreement for determining the exact distance potential customers will be willing to walk to get to their destination.”

Well, if there’s no magic bullet, what are you gonna do?

Whether by magic or not, this newest study shows 831 spaces of on street parking – a sizeable increase of 123 over the number found by those other guys back in 2000.

Our consulted Indianapolis engineers also counted: 610 spaces in the Cherry Street Parking Garage and 559 spaces in the lofty SkyGarden Parking Garage.

There are approximately 3,619 private parking spaces.

Add it all up: approximately 5,619 parking spaces in the downtown area.

Even with the influx of cars expected due to the expansion of ISU housing into the downtown area, there will be plenty of downtown parking spots. And it wouldn’t hurt most local folk to walk a few more than 1,200 feet. Every day even. Perhaps there’s a study of local obesity trends available for cross-reference.

Parking in downtown Terre Haute – not a problem. Not even close.

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