Learn from Lima

Reverse-angle parking may be stalled in downtown Findlay, but city officials should still pay attention to how the concept is received in Lima. There may also be a lesson to be learned from our Allen County neighbors on how to sell future streetscape changes to the public.
Saturday’s story (Page A1) by reporter Joy Brown explained how portions of two one-way Lima streets have been converted to reverse-angle parking, as part of that city’s $10 million, multi-phased “Complete Streets” project.
The still-in-progress renovations are designed to slow speeds, improve safety, and better accommodate pedestrians, bicyclists and wheelchair users.
Those goals should sound familiar to Findlay residents, who were introduced to a downtown remodeling plan by city officials in March. One component was reverse-angle parking.
But, unlike Lima, residents here rejected the parking idea, which led officials to pull it from the plan.
Yet, we’re not so sure the backlash was as much about reverse-angle parking as it was where planners wanted to implement it. The proposal called for it on both sides of Main Street, where lanes of travel would be reduced from four to two.
That proved to be too much change for many people to embrace. Perhaps earlier public discussion about the proposal and parking alternatives would have made the idea easier to swallow. Maybe limiting reverse-angle parking to a side street or two would have given people a chance to warm up to the idea.
Reverse-angle parking may be forward thinking, but it’s not new. It’s becoming more popular in downtowns as it allows for more parking spaces.
With reverse-angle, drivers pull past the parking spot, back in, park their vehicle, and go about their business. When they leave, they pull forward into the roadway instead of backing into it. The thinking is that reverse angle parking is safer than both parallel and front-angle parking because drivers pulling forward can more easily spot oncoming traffic.
Lima took a different approach in rolling out it streetscape plan: It included the public in the discussions throughout the process.
Studies began there in 2008, in cooperation with the Ohio Department of Transportation, and the city held several public meetings early on, encouraging residents to submit their thoughts online. Officials went door-to-door to explain their ideas.
The studies were completed in 2011 and changes started in 2012.
The jury may be still out on reverse-angle parking in Lima. Some like it, some don’t. But it may be something that just takes time for people to get used to.
Lima’s plan to use reverse-angle parking in limited areas seems like a reasonable approach.
Findlay is still planning to improve Main and Cory streets, and will learn this month if it will receive state grant money for the construction. If so, a bike lane may be added to Cory Street from West Main Cross Street to the University of Findlay.
As our downtown continues to evolve, the community will have to decide if it wants a more modern, more convenient, safer downtown. City officials must make sure the public is involved at every step if they want to ensure a smooth transformation.
Lima seems open to the challenges of change. Findlay should be, too.

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