City of Stone Mountain considering paid parking to capitalize on park attendance

A photo from the 2018 Atlanta Regional Commission Stone Mountain Parking study.

Stone Mountain, GA — Parking at Stone Mountain Park will cost you $20.

But if you park along the streets of the city next to it, you don’t have to pay anything and can walk into the park from there. The Stone Mountain City Council is considering adding metered parking to city streets to deter this practice and to ensure that people visiting Stone Mountain patronize the city’s businesses.

During the May 4 City Council meeting Mayor Patricia Wheeler appointed a committee to study the issue. Committee members are Councilmembers Jasmine Little, Gina Cox and Shawnette Bryant.

“The biggest issue I see with Stone Mountain is that we have people that come in to Stone Mountain Park and park in our parking places and then walk in to the park,” Councilmember Little said. “It’s free to walk in to the park and our parking spaces are free.”

She said the city wants to ensure its businesses get the benefits of people driving in from out of town and parking in Stone Mountain. There are several new businesses coming opening soon, council members noted.

“I have a business in Stone Mountain and I’ve come in on a Sunday and nowhere to park at all,” Little said.

Councilmemer Clint Monroe noted that the Atlanta Regional Commission in 2018 did a study and found that there was ample parking in Stone Mountain. But with restaurants and other businesses opening up, that could change.

The ARC study noted that parking in the city becomes scarcer when the park holds large events.

“While on a typical day Stone Mountain parking spaces may be vastly underutilized, activity during large events creates an opportunity for the city to benefit directly through money accrued from parking charges, and indirectly through economic development created by an increased flow of visitors to businesses in the Stone Mountain Village,” the ARC report says. “As the village commercial district grows, the city would like to better control the amount of park patrons parking within the residential neighborhoods, encourage park visitors to patronize the Village business while vising the park and attract more of the rush hour vehicular traffic passing through the village.”

ARC identified a total of 90 parking lots and 77 on-street parking spaces, about 2,024 parking spaces in all. Of those, just under half are in the city’s Village Core which surrounds Main Street. All the city’s on-street parking spaces are located in the Village Core, the ARC report found.

Here are the study’s major findings:

1. Parking demand is concentrated around the Stone Mountain Village Core and the Mountain Street entrance to Stone Mountain Park.

After conducting the initial inventory, the team observed that parking opportunities and challenges around the Village Core were different than the parking on the fringes of the study area. The Village Core has a higher concentration of various uses within walking distance where shared and on street parking is supported. The fringe areas are primarily service and retail uses spread in a linear fashion along Main Street.

2. The Village Core has a surplus of parking based on the existing square footage and zoning requirements.

Based on the analysis in Section 7 [of the report], Stone Mountain has a surplus of parking based on what is required within the zoning code’s parking requirements. The surplus indicates that more parking exist than what is required when including public on and of street parking. Additionally, it appears that the existing supply exceeds the actual demand for the Village Core Study Area.

3. Available parking does not exceed demand.

A count of parking occupancy was conducted during typical peek parking time periods for the Village area. During these time periods, the existing parking did not exceed demand and there was always additional parking available. When the closest on-street parking was taken or off-street parking was not available for a particular business, there was additional on or off street parking available at a nearby.

4. The MARTA Park and Ride lot may be able to support park customers and at peak times, support parking for the core area.

There are several parking options that exist between MARTA Park and Ride lot and the Village Core. This may only make the lot a practical option during very high peak times, such as during large festivals or other events. However, the lot could serve as a parking option for people trying to access the park from the Mountain Street entrance. During our inventory, we noticed several cars parking in the adjacent lot and most of them were at the park instead of Main Street.

5. If redevelopment and rehabilitation of existing commercial space continues, parking demand could exceed supply.

In line with the trend of many traditional main streets in metro Atlanta and around the nation, Stone Mountain Village is starting to add more businesses. If this trend continues and more storefronts become active, the demand for parking will put increased pressure on the existing supply. Well managed on street parking, shared parking agreements and the new possible off-street lots should continue to absorb increasing demand in the short-term. However, public parking fess could be revisited in several years if the business growth continues.

6. Parking appears limited when considering an individual business.

Many of the business within the Village have small off street lots if any at all. This can lead to the perception that here is limited parking, however when considering the existing on street, public off street and shared parking opportunities, parking should be adequate for the current conditions.

7. Several underutilized lots are large enough to accommodate additional shared parking

In addition to the large public lot along Main Street between W. Mountain Street and Manor Drive, there are several private and institutional lots that can serve as shared parking lots. As mentioned above, shared and public parking can help to alleviate any further parking problems within the Village Core.

8. Off-street private parking lots outside of the core along the southern portion of Main Street are often small, but additional parking options exist in the rear.

Many of these lots have limited spaces fronting Main Street, but have additional spaces in the rear of the lots with access along 2nd Street.

9. On-street parking unofficially exist along Malone Street and can be marked.

Marking theses spaces will make them more visible to all drivers.

Source: Atlanta Regional Commission

The study recommended the city install resident-only parking signs, increasing on-street parking, and considering a two to three hour parking limit in busy areas.

Little said the city would also like to allow businesses to validate parking. That would encourage visitors to Stone Mountain Park to support the local economy while they’re in town.

“So you go to the park, so come back and support one of these businesses and you get your validation,” Little said. “It doesn’t make sense to have people parking for free, taking from our actual customers.”

To read the full ARC report, click here.

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