The city of Ypsilanti and the Ypsilanti Downtown Development Authority (DDA) are considering a variety of new changes to improve the city's parking situation.
City and DDA officials commissioned a parking study from a consulting group and have been seeking input from residents and business owners, with a special focus on downtown, Depot Town, and West Cross Street. Three community feedback sessions were held during the day on Wednesday, April 3, followed by a working session between the DDA and city council the same evening.
Currently, parking is handled in three different departments. The department of public services is responsible for maintenance, the parking bureau is responsible for enforcement, and the clerk's office handles parking revenue. The consultancy firm recommended hiring a parking services manager to coordinate all these aspects of city parking and plan citywide improvements.
Depot Town is a special case in that many of its public lots are completely full on evenings and weekends, and there aren't enough spots designated for handicapped drivers. With the Thompson Block to be occupied by the end of the year, and discussions about having a commuter rail stop in Depot Town, parking pressure in the area is expected to increase in the next year or two.
"Depot Town has gotten pretty popular. It's just exploded," said city planner Bonnie Wessler at one of the community input sessions April 3. "Everybody wants to come visit and drive and park."
Large events at Depot Town's Ypsilanti Freighthouse create even more parking pressure, though venue organizers have begun requiring large wedding parties to provide a shuttle from hotels to the Freighthouse to alleviate the issue.
Because the lots around Depot Town are free, there's no revenue to maintain them, and the condition of the lot between Frog Island Park and the freighthouse is especially poor. In addition to beginning to charge for parking in city lots in Depot Town, the city and DDA will also consider funneling parking fees into a special enterprise fund dedicated to maintenance of city-owned lots.
Other recommendations by the parking consultant include new parking control equipment, exploring shared-use opportunities with private business owners, increasing bicycle parking and improving the pedestrian experience, consistent painting and striping of curbs and no-parking zones, creating more two-hour limit spots near businesses, and improving signage.
Creating more consistency in parking regulations is also a priority. Wessler says it's confusing for residents when parking restrictions can differ from block to block.
Wessler and DDA director Christopher Jacobs said the consultant's recommendations "are not set in stone." They encouraged city residents to contact their city council members with recommendations or concerns regarding the plan.
City council is expected to vote on the consultant's recommendations at its April 16 regular meeting.
Sarah Rigg is a freelance writer and editor in Ypsilanti Township and the project manager of On the Ground Ypsilanti. She has served as innovation and jobs/development news writer for Concentrate since early 2017 and is an occasional contributor to Driven. You may reach her at email@example.com.
All photos by Sarah Rigg.