Downtown parking crunch could send rates higher, again photo illustration photo illustration

Don Day

Downtown Boise is booming. But that boom is causing challenges for many of the workers and business who are locating employees in the state's largest urban area.

With more businesses operating in the Capital City's core, more people than ever are trying to find a place to park.

Travis Franklin is a marketing consultant who works in the 8th Street Marketplace. He lives in Nampa and commutes to downtown each day -- but finding a place to store his vehicle while he is working is a complicated challenge.

Each day, he has options - but none of them are ideal.  He can either park in a parking garage near 8th Street and pay $12 per day -- or play the on-street meter and move game. But a permanent, reliable parking spot has been elusive.

"I’ve e-mailed and connected with multiple different parking providers and gotten on waiting lists to find a better solution," Franklin said. "That’s been a nightmare - you have to go to each website for each garage to get on their website to get on their waiting list. It took a couple of hours in between other tasks."

Because none of the parking providers tell commuters how long their wait on the list might be, Franklin often pays the $12 rate - which can add up to more than $240 per month. 

The Capital City Development Corporation, which administers the public parking garage in the Downtown Boise core knows it has a problem -- one it anticipated.

CCDC chair John Hale said during a public meeting earlier this month that the tight parking situation is a "good problem to have."

"This continues to be a problem that is growing, it is not leveling off," Hale said. "We as a board are going to have to make some tough decisions in the next 90 days."

Those problems include a fully sold-out allotment of monthly parking spaces in the publicly-owned garage system.  But now, a growing number of workers like Franklin are turning to paying the daily rate to stow their cars in the public garages, which is causing garages to fill up and divert folks who may be coming to downtown for just a few hours to a less-ideal parking spot.

CCDC has seen an 81% increase in so-called all-day parkers - and the number has spiked in recent cold-weather months.

“We have attempted to accommodate everybody," CCDC parking & facilities director Max Clark said. "Historically we’ve been able to do that because it’s (been) a sleepy downtown."

With downtown waking up, CCDC is looking to increase how much it charges for parking - and that action could come this summer.  The agency last raised rates in early 2016 - which caused about ten people to cancel their parking passes, according to Clark.

Clark says the trend of people like Franklin who are willing to pay $240 shows that CCDC's currently monthly rate of $120 might be below the "market rate" - what folks are truly willing to pay for a stall.

But that so-called market rate isn't ideal for some who are forced to pay it.

“Twelve bucks a day is ridiculous, it's not in my budget," Franklin said. "Ideally, it would be nice if there was more parking nearby at a reasonable rate. I don’t mind spending a hundred dollars a month for a good parking spot, but $250 a month is ridiculous."

"We hope for a policy that has way more winners than losers," Clark said. "Whoever you make happy, there’s going to be an equal number who are unhappy."

Clark outlined a six-point strategic plan, that includes looking at parking organization/technology, maximizing utilization of garages, encouraging more use of alternative transportation, changing policies and adding "demand-based pricing strategies."

He says the last option is to build more parking.  CCDC has leased 250 spaces in the Gardner Co. parking garage under construction at 10th St. and Front St. in Boise - which is expected to come online later this year.

The current monthly rate for parking in CCDC garages ranges from $120 to $135 depending on the facility.  Some private operators are converting hourly parking lots to monthly to meet the demand for space.  

Historically, CCDC's rates have been the anchor for private parking operators - but the agency says some private operators are starting to charge more - up into the $150 range due to demand.

CCDC will hold another information session for its board in May. For now, the agency has not said how much it may increase rates - but that proposal could come by summer.