In 2012, the Downtown Development Authority hired Rich and Associates, Inc. Parking Consultants-Planners to do a Parking Demand Study in downtown Shreveport. The long-vacant former Sears building in the 600 block of Texas had just been acquired and plans were in the works for retail and apartments. In the 500 block of Milam, a developer from Monroe had purchased the historic Johnson Building and stated that he was interested in an apartment conversion as well. These areas of downtown also supported SUSLA’s Metro Campus, Artspace, Robinson Film Center, the Caddo Courthouse and a number of small offices and retail spaces, all of which needed a free flow of parking spaces in order to survive, and hopefully, grow.
Rich and Associates does parking studies around the country and it is a process that is as much art as science. Rich’s planners took documents and data provided by the DDA, talked to stakeholders, and came to Shreveport for on-site traffic counts and conversations. They were able to compare downtown Shreveport with other areas and accepted Best Practices. Some of their findings were surprising.
The Overview Summary at the beginning of the study is the compilation of findings. Though an oft-repeated refrain is that ‘there is no parking’ downtown, that is not correct. There is a LOT of parking downtown, it just may not be in the same spot where we want it at that moment. We also discovered the the City of Shreveport is ‘Parking Space Poor.’ Rich and Associates says that to successfully manage municipal parking in downtowns, municipalities need to have control of at least 50% of parking- Shreveport controls just 11%, and most of that is their on-street meter parking. That creates huge challenges in the management of parking meter spaces. These spaces, in effect, must now be all things to all people- a difficult task.
Since 2012, changes have been occurring. DDA’s ShrevePark Parking Service, working with the City of Shreveport, has been able to convert fire lane and other underutilized zones to parking meter/parking app spaces. The Parkmobile Parking App has made it possible to create a parking space without have to invest in physical parking meters which can break, be vandalized or stolen. Businesses are becoming more creative in their parking options which include valet and off-site parking and we are seeing more desire to walk downtown, and more locations that encourage it. SporTran, Shreveport’s transit authority, has added a downtown circulator to its’ route system, making it easier than ever to park and jump on the bus.
It is our belief that no more buildings downtown should be demolished or allowed to cave in simply to create low-density, unattractive surface parking and in fact, the Shreveport Unified Development Code prohibits this.
We will continue to work on ways to balance the fine line of providing reasonably-priced on street parking while making downtown a welcoming and vibrant place.