The founder of a large parking solutions company is willing to develop a plan for Lewes for free, maximizing parking by offering a variety of price points.
Jerry South of Annapolis-based Towne Park has worked with a variety of private businesses and public entities to solve parking problems, offering valet services and other innovative solutions to complex problems. In recent months, he’s developed a good working relationship with Lewes Business District Parking Committee member Matt DiSabatino, owner of three downtown Lewes restaurants.
He plans to build a system for the city based around existing inventory and possibly adding new features, such as a valet system, a shuttle/jitney, satellite parking lots, additional parking and a mobile parking app. He will likely return with a proposal at the committee’s next meeting Wednesday, March 20.
“If [the system] works the way it can and it should, then maybe there’s no need for a 250-space parking deck here in Lewes because we have a very definable time in which we’re trying to solve this problem,” he said.
A plan his company implemented in Annapolis has made a huge difference in the parking situation there.
“One thing I told the city of Annapolis was to give me 10 spaces, and I’ll take 100 cars a day off the street. The numbers ended up being even better than that,” he said.
He said the plan would not be static, and there would likely be scenarios for different times of the week and certain weeks of the season, such as Fourth of July, Memorial Day or Labor Day.
“You may have various operating scenarios within the same season where you’ll know it’s Plan C and you’ll operate this certain way,” he said.
In terms of a valet service, he said, it would need to be staged in a place that can hold five to 10 vehicles, but will not negatively impact traffic flow or danger pedestrians.
DiSabatino suggested a valet be staged at the city’s Third Street parking lot. South agreed that would be a good location, but the service would have to generate as much or more revenue for the city than it currently does for it to make sense.
“We wouldn’t want to build a system that costs the city money,” he said.
He said the loss of meter revenue could be made up in the cost for valet. It would be beneficial, he said, because the 19-space lot could hold up to 35 vehicles in a valet situation. Other lots in the city could be utilized to store vehicles too, he said.
For the overall parking plan to work, he said, the city would offer a variety of price points, including free parking.
“If you want the free option and you’re willing to walk two blocks or jump into a shuttle, great,” he said. “If you want to get out of your car at the corner of First and Main [fictional streets], and you’re willing to pay $10, $12, $15 for that privilege, good for you. And there should be options in between.”
Once South comes back to the city with a plan, he said, it will be up to city officials to decide if they want to operate the system themselves or hire a company to do it for them. South warned that it may be difficult to find an operator for such a seasonal plan.
“We have found in our history that ski towns and beach towns are very, very difficult because you’re solving for, in this case, 100 days,” South said.
If the city implements a parking plan this summer, South urged the committee to stick with it for an entire season before making any decisions.
“I’ve built systems for folks and 90 days in they’ve pulled the plug,” he said. “That’s just not enough time.”