Carolyn L. Higgins – Contributing Writer
“Yes,” “no,” “maybe so.” However you choose to respond, you have until on or about June 24 to answer questions and share your thoughts on the Town of Franklin’s Parallel Parking Survey. There are no lists to sign up for, no time limits at a public hearing – rather just eight questions on a survey to voice your opinion on Main Street parking. The survey was first posted on March 26, 2018, as the town implemented a 90-day trial period for parallel parking along Main Street, welcoming comments during the three-month trial.
Like every other town, Franklin has two basic parking components on Main Street – supply and demand. However, Town of Franklin Planner Justin Setser noted there has only been a loss of three spaces with the temporary parallel parking due to a necessary loading zone.
Having gone through a lot of different hands, Setser said this initial step was years in the making. Mayor Bob Scott and some of the council members have been part of the earlier considerations for parallel parking.
“They wanted us to push and to try to do something a little different,” said Setser.
The town has funded and conducted several studies, including the Franklin Main Street Program Master Plan in 2008 that set forth suggestions for parallel parking to increase the amount of parking on Main Street and to include a beautification plan. Scott had conferred with North Carolina Department of Transportation about “trial runs” and other traffic and parking ideas shortly after the 2008 plan. Another study was conducted in 2013.
“This [parallel parking] is what was recommended from that,” said Setser. He and an engineer touched up the plan with a few tweaks before presenting it to the town council. Working with the Town of Franklin Public Works department, temporary lines were placed to designate parallel parking spots on the north side of Main Street between Town Hall and Town Square. Angled parking remained the same on the south side of Main Street. Scott, Setser, the council and other leaders felt this was a good opportunity for citizens to experience and compare options. One constant complaint that also fueled the trial was concern that angled parking – especially of oversized vehicles – clogged traffic.
Setser said they’ve had some negative and some positive responses since the parking experiment. “We have been taking surveys for the past 60 days, and most of the feedback has been positive.” However, Setser said the town has not tabulated the responses yet. They are waiting until all surveys have been received.
One negative comment was related to lack of parallel parking. Positive comments people shared with Setser included: “The road looks cleaner when you are coming down;” “You aren’t having the big trucks out in the road anymore;” “The crosswalks have visibility.” For Setser safety has been his greatest concern.
“What I like the most from the change is the added visibility of someone in the crosswalk,” said Setser. “Halfway down between Town Hall and the square, people were having to peek around the cars because when [drivers] were traveling they did not see until they were right on the crosswalk.” He is trying to accomplish a couple of other goals, including ease of traveling down Main Street and wider lanes. Setser said eventually if the board wants to move forward with the parallel parking, there would also be considerations for the other side of the road, adding more spaces back, a green space, more trees on Main Street, plants, and a bike park. “Bottom line, if it is something that the town council wants to stick with, it will equal out.”
Setser is encouraged that there have been no accidents or fender benders and wants to encourage others to come out and try the parallel parking. They made the spaces bigger than standard parallel spots so they would be easier. Some people have exited their vehicles, grinning with pride and patting themselves on the back for their parallel parking accomplishments.
“Don’t be scared; just give it a try,” said Setser.
The town has provided several options for completing the parking survey. It’s online at the Town of Franklin website, making it easy to print it off, scan it in by email, drop it off at Town Hall or mail it. You may also call in the survey or walk up to the receptionist and request one to hand write at the window. Setser says it’s only one page and should take five minutes or less. Officials say they welcome comments from the parking public and will incorporate them into any future changes. For more information, contact Town Planner Justin Setser at (828) 524-2516.