Last Tuesday’s Carrboro Town Council meeting focused on parking.

As we noted last year, Carrboro has been hovering around the idea of charging for parking, and even just enforcing 2-hour time limits, for many years now.The town’s first parking study back in 2016 showed Carrboro has A LOT of parking.

The second Carrboro parking study, completed in March 2022, focused more on specific zones, which added granularity to the analysis that some folks felt was missing from the 2017 study. Unsurprisingly, the second parking study confirmed all of the findings and recommendations as the first study. For example, the 2017 study urged the town to implement a unified parking wayfinding strategy, which was never implemented, and so it is also recommended in the 2022 plan.

The 2022 study found that occupancy peaks in public lots at about 80% on weekend nights as folks come to Cat’s Cradle or downtown for dinner. The public lots around the Farmer’s Market are of course at capacity on Saturday mornings, as expected. But generally, parking occupancy hovers at around 50% during the day in Carrboro despite the lack of enforcement.

Most parking lots in Carrboro post a 2-hour time limit, but the study found (and Carrboro staff confirmed with their own data collection) that 69% of cars in public lots are staying well past the 2-hour limit on weekdays.

Occupancy rates of lots in Carrboro at different times of day

Last year, the town council held a meeting where they discussed downtown parking enforcement, wayfinding, parking agreements, and exploring paid parking.

This discussion picked up again last Tuesday, where we learned the following:

Currently more than half the cars in public lots stay over 2 hours, and a quarter of cars stay 6+ hours

The Town of Chapel Hill charges and enforces parking, while the Town of Carrboro has “free” parking and no enforcement of time limits. People appear to be parking in Carrboro and taking the bus to UNC or Chapel Hill. This results in less turnover for businesses, fewer parking spots for residents, and Carrboro essentially subsidizing parking for Chapel Hill.

We should expect to see enforcement of the 2-hour parking limit…soonish

A start date hasn’t been set yet, but it’ll come with better signage and wayfinding to direct people to Carrboro’s many public lots. (We also learned that many of these lots are leased from private businesses and not outright owned by the town. The owners of those lots can give the town 90 days notice at any time to end the lease.)

Council wants to avoid paving the gravel lots, because the Town doesn’t own them, as well as avoiding capital expenditure in general for this project.

Staff is working on proposals for paid parking, but council wants more input before deciding on an approach

Carrboro is one of only a few municipalities that doesn’t charge for parking. (Boone, Chapel Hill, Greensboro, Wilson, and Greenville all do.) All of the proposals on the table include a free window to make sure folks can run errands. The spots will be priced to disincentivize all-day parking, and to ensure that spots turn over. Options for consideration include paid parking in all lots, paid parking in high demand lots, and paid parking in surface/smaller lots. Staff suggested that some lots should be free and some paid. Council pushed back on this. (This aligns with what Donald Shoup, the author of The High Cost of Free Parking, outlines in his book about unmanaged and unpriced paring.)

They also said they want to keep things as similar to Chapel Hill as possible.

Council discussed increasing ADA parking violation fees

They discussed increasing ADA parking violation from $50 to $200 (and the council discussed keeping those spots free).

The signs are eye-popping and have frogs on them


There are frogs on the signs. Sort of weird, but we’ll go with it.

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