City’s bike, pedestrian board tables then discusses mysterious angled parking item

Back-in angled parking on E. Spruce Street in downtown Missoula. (Google Earth)

The Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Board tabled but partially discussed a mysterious item for angled parking on Tuesday, something the board itself deemed to be of low priority.

While the city’s bicycle and pedestrian coordinator didn’t return calls on Wednesday seeking comment on the specific agenda item, Tiffany Brander, the city’s interim parking director, said she wasn’t aware of any such proposal to bring more angled parking downtown.

“You’re voicemail was the first I’d heard of it,” she said Wednesday. “I haven’t been approached by anyone at the bike-ped board. As of right now, we’re not looking at anything like that.”

Members of the advisory board placed “angled parking” on Tuesday’s agenda under new business, saying it was an issue worthy of discussion. After a two-hour hearing on other issues, the board tabled it for a future date.

But several members brought it up regardless and suggested the concept was floating around as a realistic proposal.

“If there comes a time we consider this, it’s talking about angled parking on future projects,” said board member Jenny Baker. “I think the recommendations this board should be making – and I would advocate strongly for this – is that there are no future angled parking projects.”

A draft of the city’s new downtown master plan looks at a number of changes to the downtown streetscape, including a shift to structured parking. It also looks to expand metered parking to the Hip Strip, Wyoming Street and other areas.

The district currently offers 9,482 parking spaces, with 38 percent of them located on the street.

“If we get the parking lots done like the downtown plan calls for, the push for angled parking would be a lot lower,” said board member Gene Schmitz. “I’m not a huge fan of it (angled parking). But if they’re going to be doing it, then let’s try to get it so they drive out so they can look back and see if there’s a cyclist instead of backing out.”

The city currently requires back-in angled parking on East Spruce Street, though that’s leased parking and used by the same users everyday. There is no other back-in angled parking in the downtown district managed by the Parking Commission.

“We only have one area in our jurisdiction that’s back-in angled parking,” said Brander. “That’s leased parking and we find it’s best to have it as leased parking because the same people are parking there everyday and they know how to use it, otherwise there’s lots of confusion around it.”

Schmitz suggested that angled parking served as a traffic calming device and suggested back-in angled parking would be preferred. Ben Weiss, the city’s bicycle and pedestrian coordinator, said angled parking in general took up valuable space.

“It helps take up some right-of-way, but the idea that that right-of-way couldn’t be better used, even at Front and Main, could basically be a protected bike lane and a wider sidewalk, and we could have outdoor cafes and nicer things rather than just car storage,” he said.