For nearly two years Savannah city leaders have been planning new parking infrastructure for the downtown area. They recently settled on changes that will clarify existing parking zones and also cut down restricted parking zones. The decision came after the 2016 Parking Matters project study surveyed 1,600 people in the area.

Sean Brandon, Management Service Bureau Chief of Savannah, said the parking plan’s public input component informed the city of a number of things concerning the difficulty people experience in parking. According to Brandon, the largest source of frustration was not being able to park for desired lengths of time.

“We certainly feel the frustration of customers when they find a parking space only to discover that it’s only one hour long,” Brandon said. “Rather than attempt turnover through timing zones on meters, which often lead to citations, we want to create them through pricing. You as the customer will be able to make the rational economic choice of where you want to park based on its price point.”

Survey findings also revealed that people were willing to pay for parking as long as the system could find them a space in a reasonable amount of time. Brandon said there were other elements that made the system complicated to navigate, including meters not taking credit cards and time zone adjustment.

“For people that possibly want to opt out of driving, the fare-free shuttles downtown are confusing and the bicycle infrastructure is not sufficient.” Brandon said.

Brandon said the proposed changes seek to create solutions for these difficulties by removing time zones on metered spaces so drivers can park as long as needed. The changes also aim to replace coin-operated meters with multi-space meters that accept credit, debit and smart cards in addition to mobile payments.

The various shuttles will merge into two reliable, fast routes while making a significant investment in bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure. According to Brandon, prior parking conditions needed improvement because the current system contains nearly 20 different pricing and timing zones which are often adjacent to one another.

“Where you park should take all forms of payment and, if it’s in a remote area, should be reachable via shuttles,” Brandon said.  “The proposed changes will make parking easier throughout the system while acknowledging that the most sought after spaces should have the highest price point in order to promote some level of turnover. Ultimately we want an easier-to-use system that issues less citations and is priced correctly.”

Written by Emilie Kefalas.