Vienna Town Council mulls changes to improve downtown parking and traffic flow

Sign for a private parking lot limited to Vienna Shopping Center customers and tenants (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

Vienna is considering several options to improve parking availability along its commercial corridor.

At a conference session on April 15, the Vienna Town Council reviewed recommendations to its update zoning laws, promote shared parking and improve signage, aiming to optimize downtown parking usage and reduce traffic in busy areas.

The recommendations were informed by a recent parking study conducted by the town’s consultant, Nelson Nygaard. The study included a survey completed in February 2023 that got responses from over 700 residents and visitors who shared feedback about their experiences parking in the town.

According to the survey, respondents most frequently visit areas between Maple Avenue and Church Street. They typically park in free lots or garages — with only about a third parking for more than two hours — and often no more than a block from their destination.

Survey participants noted that, while many businesses they visit have ample private parking, there is a significant lack of free public parking.

According to the study, 5,033 of the 5,221 parking spaces in the area are privately owned, leaving only 94 publicly owned spaces.

“During existing peak demand, many parking spaces are available in most locations,” town staff said in a presentation. “This is not a parking supply problem — it’s a parking management problem.”

To address the issue of under-utilization, the consultant suggested the town modify its zoning laws to allow more flexibility in parking requirements and encourage higher-density development.

For example, office and retail uses, including grocery stores, currently need one parking spot per 200 square feet of space. Staff recommended amending the minimum to four spaces per 1,000 square feet.

Another suggestion is to make better use of existing parking spaces by promoting shared parking agreements between different businesses and property owners. This would allow visitors to use the same parking facilities, tailored to different peak hours and specific parking needs.

Other potential strategies include improving signage to guide people to available parking spots, introducing metered on-street parking to encourage quicker turnover, promoting the use of public transit among visitors and adopting parking design standards to “achieve a vibrant streetscape and attractive walking conditions.”

After some discussion about the difficulties of finding parking for the town’s most popular shopping areas, such as the strip housing Chipotle and Crumbl Cookies, Councilmember Chuck Anderson cautioned against making “hot spots” the norm for parking requirements.

“Overall, we’re over-parked, and what that does, it drives up our rates, our leases. It reduces the amount of space we have. It doesn’t come without a cost,” Anderson said. “There’s always going to be hot spots — always. You try to work around those and minimize those by doing the shared parking that we eventually got around to at Chipotle. But essentially, if you try to solve the problem by going to the spaces that have the worst parking and considering that the norm, you’re going to end up with a lot of empty parking spaces in the rest of town.”

Mayor Linda Colbert confirmed that those areas are “outliers.”

Council members didn’t vote on any recommendations and plan to continue discussing the next steps.

Read more on FFXnow…

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