Expanding downtown parking is worth trying


Parking in downtown Walla Walla — or, to be precise, lack of parking — seems to be a constant concern.

So, in concept, adding between 47 and 80 parking spaces downtown make sense.

But implementing any of the three plans that all put diagonal parking on Alder Street by eliminating one or two lanes could cause more problems than are solved.

When Walla Wallans venture downtown for shopping, banking or anything else, many (perhaps even most) expect to park relatively close to the establishment they are visiting. Walking more than two blocks doesn’t cut it. When a space isn’t available a lot of these folks are willing to circle the block several times in the hope a space will open up.

It’s not that people don’t like to walk in Walla Walla, it’s simply part of this community’s culture.

Given that, it’s tough to say whether the additional parking spaces on Alder Street will be fully utilized.

In addition, reducing Alder Street from four lanes to two lanes or three lanes could create traffic problems. Drivers now use that street for driving through downtown rather than Main Street. Main has diagonal parking so traffic is often backed up as people wait for cars to back out of spaces. Some drivers will get impatient, which could result in fender benders.

Still, it’s worth giving one of the three proposals being considered by the City Council a try. A change can essentially be made by painting lines and eliminating lines on the street. It’s a cheap way to see if a long-standing downtown concern can be addressed.

The plan to add 47 spaces would turn one of the four lanes into a center turn lane to keep traffic moving from Fifth Avenue to Spokane Street. Angled parking would only be on the north side of Alder.

The proposal to add 60 spaces puts angled parking on both sides of Alder except near the intersection of Second Avenue, where turn lanes would be added to help traffic flow and left turns.

The most ambitious plan, the one for 80 new spaces, would have angled parking on both sides of the street just as Main Street does.

The 80-space plan would seem to be the best place to start.

If it works, great. If not, get out the paint and try one of the other proposals or simply put Alder Street back to the way it was.

The City Council is expected to make a decision at its Dec. 18 meeting.

But before that occurs, the Council and city officials are looking for community comment. The city has established a new website — Open City Hall (www.ci.walla-walla.wa.us/city/opencityhall) — to allow the people to express their views. The new website will be used in the future to get feedback on other issues.

One of the three plans to increase parking should be given a chance to work.


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