Cabbage Hill (copy)

St. Joseph Street in southwest Lancaster is seen in a September, 2015 file photo. 

THE ISSUE

A new study emphasizes just how dire the parking situation is in southern Lancaster city’s neighborhoods. The data compiled in the city’s first neighborhood parking study, done by Kimley-Horn, include vehicle counts, detailed maps of land uses and responses to an online survey. And the findings, as LNP’s Tim Stuhldreher reported in Sunday LNP, show that “in many corridors, occupancy is ‘very, very high,’ with curbsides packed bumper-to-bumper at peak hours.” While only 20% of respondents rated downtown parking “bad” or “terrible,” that percentage rose to 58% for the southeast part of Lancaster city and 61% for the southwest section.

Parking in the city is no party. And it can be especially daunting and headache-inducing in residential areas that were not built for 21st-century automobile culture, in which the average household owns two or more vehicles.

Our society is built around using our cars for work, school, shopping, recreation — for pretty much everything. (Whether that’s good or sustainable is an editorial for another day.) And so we need places to put all of those vehicles. Even in the city.

The final report for the Kimley-Horn parking study is due in about a month, Stuhldreher reported, but it’s already clear that some of the findings will be unsurprising.

“The streets here are remarkably narrow. The homes here are quaint and dense and tight and packed with people. ... That’s the reality,” Kimley-Horn project manager Michael Connor said, speaking of neighborhoods in southern Lancaster city.

The challenge: What can be done about it?

None of the suggestions to ease the parking problems are slam dunks, but we must start somewhere. Among the ideas:

— Shared-use agreements for private, off-street parking at locations such as schools and churches.

— Paving alleys so that backyard parking pads can be added.

— Angled parking.

Of this list, we especially like the idea of exploring shared-use agreements. It’s not efficient to have parking lots sitting partially or fully empty for long stretches. While shared-use agreements can be tricky to negotiate, they have proven successful elsewhere.

The key is to have a formal agreement.

“Informal agreements,” Stuhldreher wrote, “often founder when property owners become concerned about liability or neighborhood vehicle owners don’t respect the agreed-on parking hours.”

Kimley-Horn’s Connor recommends formal written agreements, and others are intrigued, too.

“I think there’s significant opportunity for shared use in the southeast,” Jack Howell, program manager of the Elm Street project, told Stuhldreher. “We need to make better use of our resources, and coordinated management is the way to do that.”

Other possibilities seem more complicated. Property rights and high costs of paving make the logistics of backyard parking pads and alley paving daunting. Meanwhile, “when Kimley-Horn simulated angled parking in the southwest, it resulted in fewer spaces, not more,” Stuhldreher noted.

Residents highlighted other issues that can exacerbate parking headaches. Vehicles may be ticketed when they are too close to intersections. And the residential parking permit program can end up pushing other cars onto blocks where the program is not in use, increasing congestion there.

We sympathize with all of these issues and concerns. There should be reasonable solutions for all residents who wish to park near their homes. And, certainly, there is a key role for city officials to play in aiming for comprehensive solutions.

Changing our automobile-centric culture is something we should aspire to, but we can’t snap our fingers and make it happen overnight. So we must be willing to work together, consider unconventional solutions, and perhaps get a little creative to improve our worst residential parking situations.

Avoid water shutoff

A little help, please.

Lancaster city’s water bureau serves about 140,000 people in the city, Millersville and portions of eight townships.

It is in the process of “shifting to a fully automated meter reading system, a project it hopes to complete by the end of the year,” Stuhldreher reported Sunday.

To do this, an encoder-receiver-transmitter must be installed on most customers’ meters, and this can be done only by appointment.

That’s where the help is needed.

About 60% of the 44,000 customers who need to have this work done have been contacted by the city thus far. (The 40% who haven’t been contacted yet via letter need not worry yet.)

But, of those who have been contacted, more than 3,700 “haven’t made appointments, despite receiving two letters and having hangers placed on their doors,” Stuhldreher reported, citing deputy public works director Matt Metzler.

That’s a problem, and it could create a bigger problem — water shutoffs — for customers who don’t make an appointment after being contacted.

“The city tentatively plans to send out final notices by certified mail beginning the second week of April, telling customers they have 10 days to make an appointment,” Stuhldreher wrote.

After that, if no appointment has been made, the customer’s water will be shut off. A reconnection will cost $83.

Metzler hopes actual shutoffs are limited to 1-2% of noncompliant customers.

Zero percent would be even better.

Those who were contacted by the city but haven’t yet made an appointment for the free ERT installation should do so promptly.

To schedule the installation, call contractor Grid One at the phone number on your letter from the water bureau.

For general questions about Lancaster’s water meter upgrade project, call 717-291-4820.