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Monmouth adds core parking spots

MONMOUTH -- The city of Monmouth recently approved a spate of on-street parking to prevent Western Oregon University motorists from leaving their cars in and around downtown during long stretches.

Following a communitywide discussion and City Council decision, Monmouth will add 107 parking spots near Western Oregon University's campus this summer.

Pete Strong/Itemizer-Observer

Following a communitywide discussion and City Council decision, Monmouth will add 107 parking spots near Western Oregon University's campus this summer.

March 05, 2013

MONMOUTH -- The city of Monmouth recently approved a spate of on-street parking to prevent Western Oregon University motorists from leaving their cars in and around downtown during long stretches.

This should benefit business owners and campus users, though the university may see fewer students and faculty willing to pay for WOU parking as a result.

"It will be more convenient for folks who use it," said City Councilor Darin Silbernagel, who is also Western's director of business services and oversees the financial side of school parking. "It probably isn't going to help sales any."

City Council approved on-street parking changes this month on streets near Main Street Park and at the edges of campus.

Adding diagonal parking or turning off-limit zones to parallel parking will open 107 more spots. The city will complete the project -- at a cost of $3,100 -- this summer.

The move follows discussion since last fall regarding the campus population's tendency of using up on-street parking downtown and in nearby residential streets. Most college towns endure the same thing, said City Manager Scott McClure.

"There are a fair amount of people who don't wish to buy a (school) parking permit and they're OK with getting a space off campus and walking a little further," McClure said.

Enrollment growth has played a role, while buildings occupy what was a major lot just east of McArthur Field.

Congestion coincides with popular times for classes on Mondays and Wednesdays. The west end of Main Street, near the park and into neighborhoods on Clay Street and Monmouth Avenue see significant on-street parking.

"We've had police officers do some observation and what we're seeing is ... that it's getting tighter and pushing further into (outlying) neighborhoods," McClure said.

Another factor affecting parking downtown? It's easy. Monmouth has a two-hour limit on Main Street and residential-only parking signs in the surrounding neighborhoods; except for citizen complaints, they're not strongly enforced.

Monmouth hasn't traditionally made parking a major police priority to avoid straining manpower. Aggressive citations could also cause people to avoid downtown after years of trying to lure traffic in, McClure said.

"I'm not sure you could attribute it just to students or the fact that there are more businesses here now," said Thomas Jones, owner of Yeasty Beasty pizzeria. "But it does seem like there's less parking."

Western, meanwhile, has plenty, roughly 2,248 campus spots. Silbernagel said he's never seen an instance where all of the parking is full.

A lot installed just south of Gentle House off Monmouth Avenue, for example, is regularly empty. The curb directly in front of it along Gentle Avenue, however, is regularly lined with cars.

"I wouldn't say we have excess parking," Silbernagel said. "I would say we don't have a need for much more of it right now.

"Because it's available, people just prefer to park off campus. I don't think our (permit) pricing has pushed them off campus."

Annual parking for the year at Western is $81, a relative bargain compared to the $130 permits at Oregon State University and Southern Oregon University. You'll pay $384 a year as a student to park at University of Oregon.

There are 2,023 WOU parking permit holders. Zac Smith, a WOU senior, isn't one of them. He commutes to Western and said you can usually find on-street parking on Monmouth Avenue or Jackson Street if you arrive early enough.

He said he occasionally worries about getting a ticket, though his only warning in four years was from the owner of a private property he parked in front of. He's not interested in a parking permit.

"They aren't worth the price they're asking," Smith said.

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