At the Greensboro City Council work session on Thursday, Feb. 24, it was clear that Mayor Nancy Vaughan and city staff are not on the same page on solving downtown parking issues.
Greensboro Department of Transportation (GDOT) Director Hanna Cockburn presented a proposal to hire consultant in April who would bring back a comprehensive report on parking in the center city in 12 to 18 months.
Mayor Nancy Vaughan said, “I would say that from my point of view 12 to 18 months is unacceptable. I would hope that we could greatly accelerate the timeline. We have a great need at present.”
City Manager Tai Jaiyeoba suggested that the study be phased with some draft recommendations coming earlier. But he added that downtown stakeholders had to be consulted before recommendations could be made.
Vaughan agreed that a comprehensive study was needed, but that some action needed to be taken for the immediate need particularly in the South End area of the downtown. During the discussion of the sale of property at the corner of Gate City Boulevard and South Elm Street to Lidl for a grocery store and a surface parking lot, the current parking needs in that area was brought up as a major issue.
Vaughan said, “The urgent need is in the South End and that is where we really have to do a quick review of how we can address the issue.”
Councilmember Sharon Hightower objected to a study on downtown parking if it took the focus away from the “immediate need” for affordable housing and jobs.
Cockburn said that the last comprehensive study of parking in the downtown area was done in 2011 and much had changed in downtown Greensboro in the past 10 years, such as, “The long lasting changes that COVID-19 has brought to us.”
Although it was never announced by the city, on-street parking in downtown Greensboro was free from sometime in March 2020 to Oct. 19, 2020. Officially the parking wasn’t free, but parking enforcement officers did not write tickets for expired meters or other minor parking infractions during those months. The fact that tickets were not being written for expired meters was such a secret that the parking enforcement division refused to confirm it. However, Cockburn did.
On-street parking is free on Elm Street and on North Greene Street in front of the Federal Municipal Credit Union where many city employees have accounts, but on-street parking in most of the downtown area is metered.