New Parking Rules to roll out May 1 in Downtown Williston


The City of Williston is about to make some major changes to the way people park in Downtown Williston. Beginning May 1 there will be time limits on the streets and in the parking lots, fines for violators and weekday enforcement; there will not be, however, a new parking ramp yet.

“We don’t need new parking yet, but we need to start thinking about it,” said Williston City Planner Rachel Ressler.

The Williston Planning and Zoning Department and Rich and Associates have been studying parking demand in Downtown Williston for nearly a year. The project was recently completed and Ressler presented details from the 95-page study to City Commissioners on Monday, February 9, 2015. The conclusions may come as a surprise to some.

“What we need to do is rearrange where people park, which should open up more parking for customers,” said Ressler.

The project looked at a 36-block area that has 3,205 parking spaces; 1,128 public on-street spaces and 632 public off-street spaces. The area identified as Zone 1 (the core shopping district located on Broadway and Main Street) currently has a deficit of just 3 parking spaces while Zone 2 (the area that is within a walkable distance to the core businesses) has a surplus of 399.

“I actually thought we had a surplus in Zone 1,” Ressler admitted. According to her summary for commissioners, “The highest occupancy was 52 percent between 10 a.m. and 12 p.m. The study pointed out that often, if a parking lot or street is 80 percent full, the human brain reads it as being 100 percent full, which leads to people driving around looking for spaces, adding even further to the perception that the downtown parking is full.”

The analysis gave the Downtown Williston Parking Committee and City Planners ways to improve the current parking situation as well as methods to identify future parking needs if there is new growth.

“The study provided the City with a matrix to evaluate the impact of any new development or changing uses on downtown parking,” said Ressler.

The first new parking regulations will be rolled out on May 1. The biggest changes will include new 90-minute and three-hour parking zones; no reserved parking in public lots; and $20 parking fines for violators. A new full-time parking enforcement officer will patrol the area Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. The Williston Police Department will be accepting applications soon for the new position.

“Parking issues are not bad because it means people are utilizing downtown,” said Ressler. “The goal is to make it easier for customers to find parking in those prime spots.”

The new rules will encourage employees who are used to parking on the street to get in the habit of parking in the lots. The parking enforcement officer will mark the tires of vehicles parked in time-restricted spaces and ticket violators. The first two weeks courtesy tickets will be issued to encourage future compliance.

New signage will be posted to clearly mark the time restricted areas and public parking lots.

Ressler said the study identified six sites for a potential parking garage. “Each has its unique challenges, from land acquisition to the need to bury multitudes of power lines. The study also provided a calculation to determine how big the garage will need to be if it becomes necessary.”

The Downtown Parking Demand Study is part of the Williston Downtown Plan. The complete file will be available soon. In the meantime, Ressler advises: “Stay tuned for more exciting announcements about downtown…”


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