PARKING IN LANSDALE -- Lots of questions -- and answers
By Bruce Schwartz
Editor, Discover Lansdale Magazine
From the Summer 2017 Issue
The question, for Lansdalians, is simple: Where do I park?
The answer, not so much: It depends.
It depends on who you are, where you are, when you want to park and why. It depends on who or what else is parking right where you think you should be able to park, and what is being built or is going to be built right on top of where you’ve always parked.
In short, it’s complicated. And it’s about to get even more so. With 181 apartments and 22,000 sq. ft. of retail about to replace the expansive Madison Lot; with a four-story, 680-space SEPTA garage having risen almost in response; with new construction at Andale Green and along Cannon Ave.; and with businesses taking up residence and thriving in town, the situation can be confusing and will be certainly be changing.
“I think it’s going to painful to get through these redevelopment projects the next few years,” says Denton Burnell, Borough Council president, who with other council members and the Lansdale Parking Authority is reevaluating the parking situation in the borough. “We are trying to get out in front of it, and we know it will be hard, but you’ve got to see through to the goal. It’s going to be better on the other side.”
With all that in mind, we’ll attempt to answer the question: Where do I park? And we’ll start with a question: Who are you?
A commuter. This one’s easy, especially if you leave from Lansdale station. Park in the new SEPTA garage. It’s spacious, modern, monitored – and free, at least until November, when it will likely rise to $2. And if you’re leaving from Pennbrook or Ninth Street Station, make use of the inexpensive long-term spots (soon to be $1.25) that adjoin each station. “It’s a beautiful garage,” says Burnell. “There’s tons of space. And parking at Pennbrook or Ninth Street is a great deal.”
Where you shouldn’t park – on the residential streets around the stations. They’re not as close, you’re not saving very much, and frankly you are just aggravating folks who live and pay taxes in town. “If you’re a commuter and you’re going to be on the train half or all day, you shouldn’t be parking on Second Street or on Church Road.” Burnell says.
A resident. But commuters do park on residential streets. Which leads to the question: Where do residents park when SEPTA riders clog their street?
“I don’t have an easy answer for those residents,” Burnell says. “We want people to know we know there’s a problem, and we’re open to options. One suggestion is the idea of permits, and a lot of us are open to that idea.” Council will likely be discussing permit parking in the coming months, though all involved note it doesn’t guarantee street spaces, only that there’ll be less competition for them. “I know people want us to snap our fingers and turn permitting on, but it’s not a simple problem. You have to think through all of the consequences.”
For the moment, there are periods of conflict – say, between the times residents return home from work and commuters arrive to pick up their cars. “It’s frustrating,” Burnell says. “Nobody wants to come home and park three blocks away, and then two hours later go move their cars back in front of their house. That’s just annoying. But that’s probably what has to happen right now.”
A shopper. Those meters on Main Street were made for you, Mr. and Ms. Customer. They’re about a two-hour limit, line the business district streets, and vary from a buck an hour in the highest-value spaces down to a dime just a couple blocks away. If you’re just stopping in
to pick up a cup of coffee or a bag of pretzels, press the button on the meters for 15 free minutes.
The goal is to keep traffic coming and going. “You want people to park where it’s most efficient for the town,” says Burnell. “If the person wants to pop in and get something, you want that to be close and convenient. But you don’t want someone to park in that space for six to eight hours. Main Street is really meant for a shorter visit.”
And if your visit may exceed a couple hours, Lansdale’s kiosk lots are a good alternative to running down the street with a handful of quarters. The West Main and Walnut Street lots go from one to four hours for 50 cents an hour, take credit cards and let you add time via text message – and the Vine Street Lot, across from the Library, goes longer still, up to six hours, for 50 cents total.
A business owner or employee. Some properties along the main drag have private spaces in back that owners or employees may use. For others, that Vine Street Lot is an option, though the current limit is six hours before having to reload.
“And if you don’t mind walking for two minutes, the garage is free right now. It’s convenient, safe and protected,” says Burnell. Although the Madison Lot is only available until Oct. 16, spaces there go up to 15 hours (the red meters). “Take advantage of the scenarios that are presented to you in the time when they exist,” Burnell says. “We know we have to be creative once that project starts.
“We are going to have to be open minded about the surrounding lots, and look at keeping those satellite rates lower, because we do want people who work and own businesses in town to have a cost-effective option,” he says. “There may also be an opportunity for commercial passes, where you pay a monthly rate.”
Of course, the not-so-secret parking option: Just head a couple blocks down Main or Broad, and parking is abundant, on-street and meterless. (And yes, employees have been known to park on nearby residential streets as well.)
Or just someone trying to avoid the chaos to come. The borough feels your pain. The borough revamping of Madison Street is intended to open up dozens of spots during the Equus construction. And Equus is required to maintain a certain amount of parking during
construction, according to Parking Authority Chairman Dan Dunigan.
Parking at the Freight House Lot on South Broad could be coming on line soon after. Discussions are also under way with private lot owners near downtown for parking partnerships during construction.
Think of how things will look five years down the road, says Burnell. “Whether you love or hate the look and feel of the (Madison) project, it is going to transform this downtown.” Factoring in the SEPTA garage, he says, “despite all of the chatter to the contrary, we’re actually increasing the net number of parking spaces.”
With more residents, more businesses and more core vitality, will people be willing to walk a little further, across that pedestrian bridge, to visit, shop and work in downtown Lansdale? “If what we are talking about is happening, then yes, they will,” he says, “because they want to be here.”