BREMERTON — Anyone who frequents downtown Bremerton can agree that finding a parking space close to your destination is a crapshoot at best.
Add in a community event, and it can be even worse. If you live downtown, it might even be a familiar practice to park blocks away from home due to commuter traffic.
“We do have high demand,” City Clerk Shannon Corin said. “And when you have high demand, people start seeing a problem.”
The City of Bremerton is working to try and fix these situations, however.
A stakeholder advisory group has been formed and is working with BERK Construction to “assess the current condition of the parking system, identify future needs and make recommendations for strategies to address demand and financing of the system,” according to the city’s website.
“It’s been needed for a while,” Corin said, “and our finance director, Cathy Johnson, really championed the idea with the mayor and council. I don’t know that a parking study had ever been done in Bremerton before.”
The advisory group has met a couple times to discuss the problem areas, including the downtown district and the area near Olympic College, and possible solutions. Since the first meeting Sept. 29, BERK has collected some parking data.
“We’re just under 80 percent full all the time on average,” Corin said. “That’s rather high. Usually, it’s down below 50 percent, according to BERK.”
Many streets in the heart of downtown Bremerton have a two-hour limit for street parking, with the stipulation that you can’t park on the same-named street twice in one day.
“One of the things … they substantiated is what we call the ‘downtown shuffle,’ ” Corin said. “People are moving from one block to the next.”
Most of those doing the “downtown shuffle,” Corin said, are likely people who work downtown and move their cars every two hours throughout the workday.
This shuffle can seriously impact residential areas downtown, where many houses don’t have driveways or garages, meaning residents must rely on street parking. Though those residents can get a permit that allows them to ignore the two-hour limit, that doesn’t stop commuters or downtown visitors from parking in those residential districts, forcing residents to park farther away from home.
About half of the committee is comprised of downtown residents, Corin said, giving them a first-hand perspective on the impact these parking problems can have in residential neighborhoods.
“I think that our stakeholder advisory group is doing a great job in discussing the parking concerns there are, and the ideas that could maybe be used to help,” Corin said.
Of the possible solutions Corin said the one with the most support was getting “Kitsap Transit heavily involved in setting up commuter parking outside of downtown, and providing transit into downtown.”
That would directly benefit commuters who either stay downtown all day or take the ferry to Seattle, while also benefiting downtown visitors and residents by freeing up street parking.
Originally, Corin said the parking study was scheduled to be completed in February 2017, but they’re now about a month behind schedule, so it could be as late as April 2017 when they finish. After that, Corin said proposals will be made to the City Council. If and when the council approves, it could take another six months to a year before any change is seen.
Corin added that the community will be invited to an open house to provide commentary before anything is presented to the City Council.
For more information about the parking study or to sign up for updates, visit www.ci.bremerton.wa.us/986/Parking-Study.
Michelle Beahm is a reporter with the Central Kitsap Reporter and Bremerton Patriot. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.