Parking Discussions Continue in New Year

Only a few weeks in to 2024 and parking discussions continue to consume board meetings and news cycles

By Drew Monroe | Published on 1/18/2024, 5:25:00 AM

Parking project proposals seem to lose viability in this town just as much as the Detroit Pistons lose basketball games.

This past Tuesday the Downtown Business Partnership (DBP), spent much of their first board meeting of the year, focused on the topic of parking. Specifically, they learned that the proposal to add two stories to the existing parking garage on Black is now effectively off the table. Discussions around the extension of the existing structure reach as far back as 2018 and include a feasibility analysis that was completed in 2019.

In 2022 the City Commission considered paid parking downtown but voted to end any further analysis of the topic in January of '23. And just last November the Bozeman Public Library Board of Trustees voted against proceeding with the construction of a parking garage on their lot; a proposal that included a new hotel, condos, and multi-family homes.

An article published by NBC Montana last Sunday highlighted downtown parking concerns raised by Tim Benson, GM of Rocking R’ Bar. He's less concerned about the quantity of parking spaces and more concerned about the management of it. Pointing out the financial burden on employees who might have to pay for parking beyond two hours in the garage and the potential dangers of prohibiting street parking between 2 am and 7 am.

And although unrelated to the City’s parking policies or improvements, MSU just received two approvals from the Board of Regents to spend a total of $17 million on parking infrastructure improvements and maintenance across campus; most notably increasing inventory at the stadium lots by 50%.

Big picture.... parking is just one of the many challenges our community faces as it continues to grapple with growth, urban planning, and evolving transportation needs. When the City Commission meets in the next few weeks to set their priorities for the coming year, it's expected that affordable housing and urban camping will be two of the hottest topics. While the Unified Development Code (UDC) is expected to be dusted off and pushed forward this year, there's not a lot of promise that the City will be squarely focused on solving parking improvements or management.

Amidst all this, new technologies such as autonomous vehicles and robotaxis are hitting America's roadways, potentially disrupting the transportation industry in a manner similar to the ride sharing impact a decade ago. This means that any immediate solutions for parking expansion and management will also require serious long-term planning and consideration.