Study: Parking supply in downtown Moab ‘ample’

This lofty view of downtown Moab shows a relatively calm scene of streets and parking areas.Photo courtesy of the city of Moab

A recently completed study in downtown Moab shows that parking, which residents have said is one of their top issues with the downtown area, is “ample” and that there is even an “excess supply” of it.

“There is ample parking available in the study area for the needs of all land uses and the desires of all drivers to park vehicles,” the report accompanying the study reads.

The study was conducted by Avenue Consultants, which is based out of Taylorsville, Utah, on contract with the city of Moab.

The company utilized traffic data collected by the Utah Department of Transportation and aerial photography of downtown Moab to determine overall parking demand downtown, how much parking is required and other key metrics.

Although the study has been completed, the report from the study is currently considered a draft, since it has not yet been approved by the city council. Council members will review the study’s methodology, findings and recommendations for errors and approve the report if it finds no issues.

Whether the city follows the recommendations outlined in the report is a separate matter.

How the study was conducted

Avenue obtained parking utilization figures in the downtown area for the study period, May 17 and 18, 2018, by doing hourly drone flights that captured the aerial photography of downtown Moab streets.

After the sets of aerial photographs were computationally stitched together, a GIS technician for Avenue, Nicole Talbot, went through the resulting 20 sets of images, each set containing nearly 1,500 parking spots of interest, to mark each spot as taken, available or other (occupied by a double-parked car, for example).

If a car occupied a spot in one image but a different car occupied the same spot an hour later, Talbot made note of that to keep track of how often cars used each spot.

According to UDOT traffic data, the two days when Avenue captured its aerial photography turned out to be two of the busiest days of the year in Moab. Both were in the top 5% between Aug. 1, 2017 and Aug. 1, 2018 by measures of how many cars traveled on Center Street, 100 North or 100 South each day.

“These high volumes on downtown cross streets indicate that the parking data collection occurred during days with higher-than-average parking demand,” the study reads.

Key findings

Avenue said in its report that no more than 53% of parking spots in downtown Moab were occupied at any given time during its two-day study.

This graphic shows parking usage around Main and Center streets over the course of a two-day study that took place in May 2018.
Graphic courtesy of Avenue Consulting

“Moab is in a good position with more total parking available than is needed to meet the demand,” the report from Avenue reads. “However, during the highest demand hours of the day, parking immediately adjacent to some destinations will not be available.”

There were 51 stalls that were occupied for the full extent of the study period, but this was a minority of the 1,462 parking spaces that were evaluated, and over triple this number (162) never hosted a car.

“The goal for parking areas should be to achieve 85% utilization,” the report reads. “Most areas never reach that number (…) indicating an excess supply.”

The study also found that a significant amount of Main Street shoulder parking is “lost due to vehicles with trailers and inefficient spacing.” Since spots on Main Street are not marked, drivers can at times leave an amount of space between other vehicles that is slightly too small to accommodate another car.

The report from Avenue noted other parking patterns downtown, as well. Restaurants are the source of the greatest amount of public parking demand in Moab, according to the study, and people tend to be unwilling to park more than a block away from where they want to go.

“People seem unwilling to walk greater than 300 feet from their vehicle to their destination as witnessed by the available parking in the highest demand hours,” the report reads.

Recommendations

Avenue outlined nine recommendations that it cited in its report accompanying the parking study, including the rationale for each recommendation and what each would cost.

Notably, Avenue recommended moving forward with a plan to add a public parking garage behind The Spoke restaurant, since the area surrounding the corner of Center and Main had the highest demand for parking during the study. The State of Utah is also providing the funds for the project, meaning the $7.8 million price tag of the project is already covered.

Avenue also recommended that the city start using back-in angle parking on roads with planned bike lanes. The angled parking differs from the current angled parking in Moab; rather than pulling straight into angled spots, drivers would have to pull ahead of the spots then back into them.

Traffic experts and industry groups including the American Automobile Association (also known as AAA) have said that back-in angle parking is safer than the alternative, particularly because drivers can better see oncoming traffic as they leave the spot.

Back-in parking is already planned for 100 South.

The other recommendations from Avenue were as follows:

  • Continue to let the public parking offerings downtown be free.
  • Put down stripes to delineate parallel parking stalls so that spaces are not lost to poor-efficiency parking.
  • Put up 2-hour time limit parking signs at public parking stalls.
  • Add way-finding signs to encourage walking to destinations one to two blocks away.
  • Add red curb paint to restrict parking within 30 feet of an intersection, bringing local roads into compliance with state code.
  • Add street signs to encourage parking in the city-owned lot behind The Spoke.
  • Continue with plans to add oversized parking lots north and south of Moab.

Easter eggs

The study revealed a few specific, interesting factoids. For example, the single parking spot with the most turnover in the downtown area during the study was the spot directly in front of the entrance to the Moonflower Community Cooperative. The spot is the second farthest to the west in the row.

Only one car remained in the same spot the whole period when Avenue was conducting its study. It is unknown whether the car left its spot on Williams Way at any time during the two-day window. However, it was in the exact same spot each of the 20 times Avenue’s drone photographed the street.