Valdosta officials look to improve parking

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By: Emma Wheeler | WCTV Eyewitness News
November 28, 2018

VALDOSTA, Ga. (WCTV) -- The City of Valdosta continues to grow and, with it, comes growing parking pains.

At next week's Valdosta-Lowndes Metropolitan Planning Organization's committee meetings, the South Georgia Regional Commission will be presenting a parking study. The SGRC has been looking into ways to improve parking throughout Valdosta, and most drivers and business owners are hopping on board.

"It's terrible. I come early and try and beat the traffic. It's pretty bad," said Robert Wood, who drives into work downtown. "Just nowhere to park, it's real congested. The weekends and evenings are really bad."

Businesses are bustling around downtown, bringing drivers and parking headaches.

"It's daily for us," said Robert Sawyer, owner of Get Hooked on Nutrition. "We lose customers because they come up to the front, there's nowhere to park and they drive away. And then they tell me the next day, 'Sorry I missed you yesterday, I couldn't find parking.'"

As the city continues to grow, it's a problem expected to only get worse.

Now, solutions are being studied by the SGRC on how to make parking safer and easier for drivers. A few of those include shared spaces, parking areas that are shared by multiple businesses, increasing enforcement and reversed, on-street angled parking.

"It's due to Valdosta growing, we're just looking into how to implement parking best practices to accommodate for the new economic growth," said August Huckleberry, heading the study at SGRC.

The presentation at next week's meeting is phase one of three. Phase three will be assessing which of these ideas would work best in Valdosta, with a followed recommendation by the commission. Staff said that could happen next fall at the earliest.

"We need to look at it now so we're ready for the future. Valdosta is growing, and we're going to have to accommodate. Better now than later," Huckleberry said.

Studying city parking is part of the long-term 2040 transportation plan, which staff said needs to be completed by 2020.

If any of the recommendations stick, they could apply to the whole Valdosta metro.