Downtown business owner Alex Shea said many of his customers coming up from the Colorado Front Range tell him downtown Laramie reminds them “of the way Fort Collins used to be.” Changing downtown Laramie to feature all one-way streets, he added, could make that opinion disappear.
Similar opinions were heard during the Laramie City Council’s Wednesday joint work session with the Laramie Main Street Alliance discussing potential parking remedies for downtown, including making all streets one-way couplets to add additional parking spaces. City hall was packed with people as the Council heard input from downtown residents, business owners and other concerned Laramie residents about the proposal.
City civil engineer Eric Milliken presented the Council with a few options for street configurations that would add parking downtown, one of which would completely make up for the 24 parking spaces that will be lost when the medians on Third Street are installed. Making all of downtown from Clark Street to Park Avenue one-way couplet streets, he said, would add as much as 92 additional parking spaces downtown. Considering the transition would involve mostly signage changes and painting, Milliken said it would be a relatively low-cost solution for the city.
Most of the added parking spaces, however, would not be in the central part of the downtown area where parking is needed. Additionally, many expressed concerns customers may get confused or miss their stores completely with the new street configuration.
“We have a great, vibrant downtown right now, and our businesses do really need as much exposure as we can give to them,” said business owner Joan Martindale. “With two-way roads, we get traffic going both ways; with a one-way road, you’re going to cut our exposure in half.”
Downtown business owner Jeff Dodds said he talked to neighboring businesses to ask if anyone would support one-way streets and he had yet to talk “to one person who thinks that this is a good idea.”
As they expressed their disapproval for one-way streets, many did suggest alternative solutions that don’t involve changing the traffic structure. Most of the comments focused on better enforcement of parking restrictions and two-hour time limits, especially for business employees and tenants who stay parked for longer periods of time. Many of the business owners said they offer to pay tickets for customers worried about being parked too long because they know there won’t be a ticket. Quicker turnover, many said, would help far more than one-way streets.
“We have to be very, very, careful with how we’re going to deal with ticketing customers,” Shea said. “If … they’ve been shopping for three hours and they get a ticket, it leaves a real bad taste in their mouth. This is the challenge I think we really have; how do we enforce it without upsetting the public?”
Looking at the big picture, business owner Gustave Anderson said he wasn’t sure one-way streets would be the best way to solve downtown’s perceived parking issue, especially since there isn’t a consensus as to whether it’s a capacity issue or an enforcement issue.
“A downtown is the heart of any community, and before do heart surgery you better have a good plan,” Anderson said. “Because you can undo it, but it’s going to be painful and it’s going to be tough … and as a taxpayer, I’d like to make the decision not thinking it’s a really nice expensive experiment.”