An experiment is only as good as the results it produces. If the results are not favorable, the person running the experiment should determine how long to allow the experiment to continue before changing its course.
Just shy of one year into the Bridgeport Main Street revitalization experiment, the back-in angle parking portion of the project has repeatedly come under fire for its alleged lack of success.
“We need to evaluate the parking in Bridgeport,” Mono County Supervisor Larry Johnston said at an Aug. 6 Board of Supervisors meeting. “It’s a failure. I keep seeing people parking incorrectly. If it’s unsuccessful, we should address it.”
Last year Bridgeport implemented “back-in angle parking” as part of its Main Street Revitalization effort. Mono County and the Bridgeport Regional Planning Advisory Committee (RPAC) facilitated the change as a way to deal with excess space following the reduction of the number of traffic lanes along Bridgeport’s Main Street, aka U.S. 395.
It was late August 2012, when the Bridgeport community gathered together for a series of intensive, participatory workshops to discuss the problems and possibilities of U.S. 395 as it passes through town.
According to Mono County’s website, “An overwhelming consensus emerged from the workshops to reduce the number of traffic lanes from five to three — one lane of travel in each direction and a center turn lane. Determining the fate of the pavement outside the traffic lanes was a little more difficult … The three-lane configuration and new parking scheme – with back-in angle parking – was supported by the RPAC at the regular September meeting and submitted to Caltrans for immediate incorporation into the current grind and overlay project in Bridgeport.”
“The highway through Bridgeport is a State facility and Caltrans does have the final say in the parking configuration for the facility,” Caltrans Public Information Officer Florene Trainor told The Sheet. “That being said, it is also one of Caltrans’ goals to be sensitive to the communities that our facilities pass through. Caltrans has worked closely with the RPAC, Mono County Board of Supervisors and the Mono County Planning Department in Bridgeport in an effort to provide not only what is safe and efficient for the through traveler, but also in trying to meet the community’s goals and needs.”
By October the change was underway, and by the end of November the new configuration was in place.
“My understanding of the RPAC’s goals was to improve the walkability and sense of community of Bridgeport, and the overall tourist experience also,” Trainor said. “The hope is that an improved tourist experience will lead to more tourists and thus an improved Bridgeport economy. I have received reports from Wendy Sugimura of the Mono County Planning Department, that the RPAC is basically pleased with the new configuration so far. The overall perception is that vehicle speeds within the town are slower and that the pedestrians and bicyclists are safer.”
In the past year, however, people driving through Bridgeport have commented on the large number of motorists who seemed confused by the parking configuration and simply pulled in head first to the parking spots anyway.
“We were all beginning to have doubts because we weren’t getting compliance,” said Bridgeport RPAC member Bob Peters, adding that while there was some signage explaining how the parking worked, it wasn’t signage that people noticed.
“Caltrans did its best to put up signs, but people didn’t seem to see them,” Peters said.
“The main call on if it is working for Caltrans is safety,” Trainor said. “We are working closely with the CHP to monitor the collision history of downtown Bridgeport with the new parking and three lane configuration.”
Trainor explained that at Caltrans collision reports are entered into a system where the agency can access the type of collision and the statistical analysis that goes with them. However, the system is always at least a year, often two years, behind.
“Since we didn’t want to wait two years to find out if this change in Bridgeport was a bad idea, what we have done is request that Bridgeport CHP immediately forward to Caltrans any collisions so that we know what is happening right now,” Trainor said. “As of this date there have been two collisions reported in the little over a year (August 2012 to present) that the new parking and three lane configuration has been in place. Both of these collisions occurred summer of 2013. Neither of these collisions resulted in injury they were property damage only (PDO).”
Trainor said that most collisions in Bridgeport occur in the summer months of June – August.
“In the summer of 2011 there were three collisions, all PDO,” Trainor reported. “In the summer of 2010 there was one collision (also one in March), all PDO. In the summer of 2009 there were two collisions all PDO. Just looking at the numbers, it appears that summer 2013’s collision history with the 3 lane configuration and new parking was virtually unchanged from the three previous summers’ number of collisions with the 5 lane configuration and parallel parking.”
During the week of Aug. 12, members of the RPAC painted “BACK-IN ONLY” on the curb face of each back-in parking space. According to Trainor, “This simple change appears to have made a significant improvement to ‘correct’ parking.
“Thirty minutes after painting we had 100 percent compliance,” Peters said. He said the community has continued to see almost 100 percent compliance ever since.
Even Supervisor Johnston said via text, “My limited observations are that there are fewer head-in parkers with the stenciled curbs.”
According to www.walkinginfo.org, “A small sampling of cities that have installed back-in angle parking includes: Seattle (city-wide), Tacoma, Olympia, and Vancouver in Washington; Portland and Salem in Oregon; Tucson, Arizona … Tucson tracked data for bicycle/car crashes before and after installing back-in angle parking, and found an average of three to four crashes per month with front-in angle parking compared to zero reported bicycle/car crashes for the first four years following implementation of back-in angle parking.”