February 3, 2013

Cornell Graduate Students Tackle Collegetown Parking Woes

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Several students from the Cornell Institute for Public Affairs are helping to alleviate issues with parking in Collegetown.

Students recommended — among other suggestions — lowering the price of the parking garage on Dryden Road and creating more frequent service routes for the TCAT bus, according to Laurie Miller, instructor of the capstone course. The City of Ithaca Department of Planning and Economic Development reached out to the capstone class to provide recommendations on how to improve the parking situation.

“The City will be able to use this information to guide their decisions when implementing new parking practices, including new meters and pay systems in Collegetown,” Miller said.

For the project, the students separated into four groups that each performed a different task — addressing parking inventory and use, and conducting residential surveys, business surveys and stakeholder interviews, according to a press release.

The work allowed them to update a City study from 2000 that surveyed residents and those in the surrounding area about their parking problems, according to a University press release.

Henry McCaslin M.P.A. ’13 said that when he worked on the parking inventory, his group counted the number of parking spaces available in Collegetown. Other groups, he said, focused more on surveying residents about parking.

“There were also people talking to important businesses and stakeholders about their parking problems,” McCaslin added.

The survey showed that although most people agreed that there was a problem with parking in Collegetown, there were differences in people’s perceptions of the parking problem, according to McCaslin.

“You ask someone, ‘Is there a parking problem?’ and lots of people say ‘yes’ [because they are] dissatisfied with parking, but they’ll disagree on what exactly the problem is — Is it too expensive? Is there not enough parking? Are there too many students bringing cars to Collegetown?” he said.

The real issue, according to the survey, was not that there was a lack of parking spaces, but rather that parking spaces were not easily accessible.

“We actually found that there is enough parking, but lots of the time, parking spaces aren’t where people want them to be. They would have to walk three blocks from their parking to get to where they want to go. So there really is this difference between reality and perceptions,” McCaslin said.

The team presented its recommendations to the Department of Planning and Economic Development in December. Megan Wilson, a planner for the City of Ithaca, said that she hopes to make the appropriate changes to Collegetown’s parking situation within a year, according to a University press release.

“To have that data available comes at a perfect time,” Wilson said in the press release. “I was impressed with the quality of the data … [especially] the extensive field surveys. I thought they did a good job.”

According to Kristin Szczepaniec M.P.A. ’13, the City has been taking initiatives to tackle the issues that had been identified, as well as working on follow-up studies that will focus on more specific aspects of Collegetown parking.

“[These follow-up studies will help to] measure exactly where all Cornell students park and figure out how to maximize or increase the use of the Collegetown area,” Szezepaniec said.

Some students also have plans to continue their work on studying parking independently. McCaslin said that he hopes to focus his research on the effect of pricing on parking.

“Although the project formally is over, this semester I’m doing independent study … so I’m right now working with the City of Ithaca to develop what kinds of questions will be helpful for them to have me answer,” McCaslin said. “I might go into more detail about the specific pricing of parking, what exactly should parking cost … so there will definitely be more work done on this.”

Original Author: Kaitlyn Kwan