Parking Authority addresses ramp limitations, stating a need for technology upgrades

Published: Dec. 13, 2019 at 6:30 PM CST
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Critics contend the management company that runs downtown Bismarck's six parking ramps turns drivers away, even when there are empty spaces.

So they contend what should be the main solution to parking problems for those who work downtown is actually part of the problem.

The numbers showed more than 100 spaces each hour going unused, but the problems are deeper than just the amount of passes property manager Rocky Gordon is selling.

Bismarck City Commissioner Shawn Oban requested a count of empty spaces in all downtown parking garages be presented at Thursday's Parking Authority Meeting.

Business owners and their employees are finding it hard to find parking in these garages located in downtown.

"It’s became a huge burden for a while trying to figure out where my car would go," said Ashton Hauff, cofounder of The Good Kids.

Hauff was forced to find parking elsewhere, after being denied a pass in October.

"Thankfully I reached out to the Downtowners and some other groups to find the spot I’m currently in next to J.L. Beers. But I have three other office mates who don't have a parking solution," said Hauff.

Some who serve on the Downtown Association say businesses have opted out of moving due to lack of parking.

"I don’t know firsthand if businesses are not coming downtown, but I do know some of them are having a hard time finding parking spots. So, we do not want that to be any sort of folks are going to have to encounter moving downtown," said Oban.

But Hauff says the inadequate parking has an effect on productivity in the work place.

"It’s a challenge because you get into the work and into you're creative zone, we're creative, so that's really important to us, and every hour and half we set a timer on our phone and we have to go out and move it. And if you're here a normal, eight, 10 hour day, you have to move your car five times a day," said Hauff.

The 6th and Thayer parking ramp is one of the most requested in downtown Bismarck, and has the longest waiting list. There are 500 available spaces, but close to 600 are sold, leaving people questioning where to park when they’re either going to The Bell or accessing downtown Bismarck. Now, the Bismarck Parking Authority is working on making changes to make ramps like this more accessible.

"Making sure we have a pay station so people have access to events that are happening downtown and better tracking technology that tracks who is using the ramps and how often, allowing us to better use that ramp and allow people to get in there," said Oban.

The last time the Parking Authority made any technology updates was at least four years ago, when they added a pay station to the 3rd and Main garage.

"I would like to continue working with that company so that we can have a seamless integration into all of our ramps. I think it’s best for people if they know how one thing works in one ramp, it should work the same way in every other ramp that we have downtown," said Ondine Baird, board member for the Parking Authority.

But the need for maintenance in the 50-year old ramps has kept them from the necessary upgrades.

"We obviously prioritize safety and maintenance over any kind of technology upgrade, but it has gotten to the point now where we're now taking the time to do the parking counts and see how out of wack the perception verse reality is," said Baird.

The Parking Authority is currently working on creating a survey to gather thoughts and ideas from residents and business owners.

"Any feedback from the public about how they could and would more likely use the ramp would be appreciated," said Baird.

In hopes of making changes through the first of the year.

Rocky Gordon declined comment on our story.

He also announced his retirement at the Parking Authority Meeting, saying that Jeremy Petron will replace him as the manager in the coming months.

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