Jun. 22—The demand for on-street parking in Reading far exceeds the supply of legal spaces available, a 2021 study found.
Available parking does not meet the needs of most neighborhoods; vehicles are regularly parked in yellow curb zones, causing sight obstructions at intersections; and double parking is rampant citywide, the study by Desman Design Management found.
The nationwide firm headquartered in New York specializes in parking consulting, planning and design.
Ask city residents and most would agree, they don't need a study to point out the obvious. They live with the situation daily.
The study backs that up, too. It found 75% of residents park on the streets, and 56% believe more on-street parking spaces are needed.
Jamal Abodalo, director of community development, presented an overview of Desman's findings and recommendations Monday at a City Council committee-of-the-whole meeting.
To help provide relief, his office is collaborating with the Reading Parking Authority on a comprehensive parking plan.
The average residential block can accommodate about 50 curbside parking spaces, he said. However, most city blocks have about 55 to 60 dwelling units, sometimes housing more than one family each. Often each household has more than one vehicle.
"If we can remove some of these parkings and have the property owner park in the back, that will probably be able to help us," Abodalo said, noting the city is encouraging off-street parking on pads in the rear of residential properties, many of which are accessible via alleys.
As an incentive for property owners to build pads, Abodalo said, the city is considering offering homeowners staff support, design templates and help with stormwater management compliance.
The biggest incentive, however, is the proposed financial assistance in the form of grants or loans for fees associated with the design, excavation, paving and other costs of building the pads.
The grants would be reserved for owners of single-family, owner-occupied residences, Abodalo said.
City administrators are asking council to dedicate $1 million in American Recovery Plan Act funds toward the project, he said.
The city received more than $61 million from the American Rescue Plan passed by Congress last year and signed by President Joe Biden.
The initiative is not without hurdles.
Last year, 20 parking pad permit applications were denied because they exceeded the maximum impervious surface coverage requirements of the city's zoning ordinance, Abodalo said.
One way around that would be to amend the zoning ordinance, he said.
There are concerns about the environmental impact of more backyard pads, Councilwoman Marcia Goodman-Hinnershitz said.
"They (the pads) first of all, depending on where they're located at, do create some pretty problematic issues as far as water runoff in the adjacent properties," she said.
The councilwoman said she would like the city's environmental advisory council to weigh in on the plan.
Goodman-Hinnershitz also said there can be issues with vehicles navigating down narrow and curving alleys that could make the plan impractical.
Abodalo said the city also hopes to expand the Reading Parking Authority's Citywide Parking Relief, or CPR, program.
The initiative is aimed at providing affordable parking for residents of neighborhoods outside the commercial core. To accomplish this, the authority has been buying reasonably priced parcels to convert to off-street parking, authority Executive Director Nathan Matz said in May.
Abodalo said the study identified vacant lots throughout the city that might be acquired by the city or RPA for neighborhood parking.
"Most of the residents prefer parking on an open lot instead of the parking garages," he said.
Despite the great need for more parking, the city's top concerns pertain to safety.
The first priority, Abodalo said, is to reduce incidents of double parking. One way to do that, he said, is through aggressive enforcement and ticketing.
"The question is, 'Who does the enforcement?'" he said. "Is it the police department or the Reading Parking Authority?"
City police battle daily with violence, drugs and other serious crimes, he said. That leaves very little time for them to enforce parking violations.
"So we are looking for the Reading Parking Authority to step up over and above what they are doing right now to help us with the enforcement of double parking, parking in the yellow lined area," Abodalo said.
Another top priority is enhancing visibility at intersections by discouraging parking in yellow zones, he said. Fixes could include indenting sidewalks where possible or expanding sidewalks and curbs at the intersections, he said.