Downtown Casper has 8,100 public and private parking spaces, but the city and the people need some encouragement to use them better, a city official said Tuesday.

"To sum it up, I think we've determined kind of what some of us had theorized in the beginning that we don't necessarily have a parking supply problem, but it's just a management problem," Aaron Kloke, supervisor of the Casper Area Metropolitan Planning Organization told City Council at a work session Tuesday.

In June, the Casper City Council wanted to address the demand for parking in the growing Old Yellowstone District and downtown. The last such study was 17 years ago. The MPO approved $80,000 for the study. About 91 percent of the funding came from the Federal Highway Administration through the MPO. The city hired national parking consulting firm Kimley-Horn to conduct the study.

Kloke pointed to some of the highlights of the Kimley-Horn draft study to illustrate some of Casper's parking issues.

People don't go downtown to park, he said. They go downtown for shopping, entertaining, food and work, and the city can do a better job of welcoming them even as they pay for the spaces they rent when they park.

Casper residents don't use available parking to the same extent people elsewhere do in their cities, Kloke said. For example, 45 percent of the available parking places are used in Casper compared to a standard of 80 percent elsewhere, he said.

The municipal court system doesn't collect all the parking fines it could, he said. From July 2016 through August 2017, the city issued $88,890 in tickets, but collected only $54,925.

Parking meters, despite their initial cost and installation, would help get people in and out of spaces more frequently. A $500,000 investment for the meters themselves, coupled with $80,000 to install them, would pay for themselves in two years, Kloke said.

A higher turnover in people who use the parking places would result in more business for downtown stores and restaurants, too.

Council member Charlie Powell suggested employers at downtown businesses could offer employees incentives to use the parking garage such as offering a lottery for free parking.

Mike Huber offered this curious observation when the Eastridge Mall opened. (At that time, parking meters were removed in the urban to encourage people to park downtown.)

Huber said a downtown business owner then determined that people walk farther from their cars to a store inside the mall than when they park downtown two blocks from a store or business.

Kloke agreed, saying parking is sometimes a matter of perception.

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