For anyone who has visited downtown Chapel Hill, it’s no secret that parking can be a headache. That’s what the Town Council had in mind when discussing the possibility of adding more parking options at Monday’s public hearing.
Town Manager Roger Stancil presented the council with options of where more parking could go, how much it would cost and what type of parking the land could yield. He said Chapel Hill should balance parking with other modes of transportation.
“It can include transit and bus riders, of course,” he said. “But we also have lots of bicyclists and pedestrians and drivers that we need to accommodate if we’re going to have a healthy and vibrant downtown.”
Two of the main areas for parking expansion that Stancil presented were at The Courtyard off of Roberson Street, and the lot on the corner of Rosemary and Columbia Streets. While he said building a parking deck could provide over 400 more parking spaces, it could also be expensive. And building more surface parking could be an option.
“One of the advantages of surface parking is number one, we could acquire the land in a number of ways so we wouldn’t have to own it in order to improve it as we have in place now,” he said. “And that does not preclude building a deck there at a future date if the demands show that we need to build additional structured parking.”
But councilwoman Maria Palmer said the town should research other ways to make downtown a pleasant experience for people who don’t live close by.
“We had talked about a tram,” she said. “There has to be a way to stop more and more cars coming because it makes walking and biking more difficult.”
Councilwoman Jessica Anderson said although a shuttle system could work smoothly in the future, she said that won’t work for downtown visitors right now.
“I can say with two kids now that I don’t shuttle in from anywhere,” she said. “And I grew up outside of Boston, so I’m not somebody who’s opposed to public transit. But I just don’t see that happening.”
Stancil said whatever the town decides, the whole point is to make sure downtown is a good place to visit.
“We want to create a pleasant experience for people who come downtown for whatever reason,” he said. “Let them visit multiple locations without being worried about their car and what’s going to happen to their car and to find places where we can support public parking.”
The town is looking into options for surface parking first, but is also looking into the potential options for another parking deck.