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051319tn-parking-study

Cedar Falls business owners, developers and officials attend a meeting on the College Hill parking study Monday. 

CEDAR FALLS — A lot of people have difficulty finding parking on College Hill.

During a public meeting Monday, results of an online survey conducted by Wantman Group Inc. found while people say parking spots are hard to find on College Hill, many aren’t aware where parking is available.

Almost 500 people responded to the survey.

“People say they have a hard time finding a parking space,” said Jon Forster of WGI during a presentation to about 30 people at the University of Northern Iowa’s Center for Energy and Environmental Education. “I think we have to take a look at policies and regulations and the best way to manage the capacity that’s up there. I think that’s key.”

The study also found more than 50 percent of off-campus UNI students park in city facilities, and most who live near campus drive.

“There wouldn’t be much parking need if the school wasn’t there,” Forster said. He met with developers and business owners prior to the meeting to discuss the results. Many business owners and city officials attended.

Those business owners told Forster that College Hill doesn’t get as much attention as the downtown district. They’ve seen cars parked illegally for days without moving, while the metered lot almost always has spots available.

Dave Diebler, owner of Octopus, called parking enforcement “annoyingly uniform.”

“We see a lot of enforcement, but not a lot of support from the city side as far as maintaining those lots,” said Brent Dahlstrom, Cedar Falls developer. “The perception is we get the last round of snow removal and the last round of repair, and yet we have the best enforcement.”

During the meeting, Forster asked if people could change one thing about parking on the Hill, what would it be?

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Some suggested putting meters in both lots on the hill as opposed to just one. Others offered the idea of UNI issuing paid overnight parking passes for students parked off campus.

If students were no long allowed to park on College Hill, UNI could handle students parking on campus, Forster said.

“They have the capacity,” he said. “Their lots are not full. They could take more people, they could take more cars.”

Another idea would be to install more meters, but make it easier to pay and provide more signage.

“Pay parking is a tool to manage demand,” Forster said.

In the next six weeks Forster will hold another public meeting with recommendations, he said. There were no definitive answers at the meeting.

Mayor Jim Brown listened throughout the meeting.

“It’s always interesting to have someone with boots on the ground,” Brown said. “I appreciated hearing the results, some of it surprising, some of it not.”

Diebler was pleased with the meeting.

“The parking was reasonable,” he said. “From business to business there’s a big difference in what they need from parking. I think the consensus is a little bit of a parking problem is healthy.”

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