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Erik Burgess, Published June 04 2013

Task force to look at downtown Fargo’s 90-minute parking zones

Fargo - Changes could soon be coming to the 90-minute parking restrictions on downtown Fargo streets.

The Fargo Parking Commission has created a Downtown Parking Task Force, which will be made up of Parking Commission and Downtown Community Partnership members.

The new task force will look into possibly changing timed parking zones downtown to better use on-street spaces, said Joe Nigg, a Fargo planner.

City officials decided in 1999 to place 90-minute limits on most street parking downtown, thinking that consistent rules would be less confusing for drivers and easier to police, Nigg said.

“The downtown’s different (now),” he said. “There’s a number of other dynamics at play, and I think we probably need to start looking at how we can better utilize some of those on-street spots.”

Mike Hahn, president/CEO of the Downtown Community Partnership, said they have heard from some businesses that want to see those 90-minute zones bumped up to two hours.

“They feel like two hours is enough time as far as to do shopping and also maybe to grab lunch, where 90 minutes it gets a little bit more rushed,” Hahn said.

Nigg said the task force could also educate residents realize about “fringe” parking spots still relatively close to the downtown core that are gathering dust.

“Part of it, I think, is people don’t want to walk a really long ways to get to wherever they’re going,” Nigg said. “But I think part of it, too, is that people just aren’t aware that some of these spaces are available.”

Not being able to park directly in front of a business leads some people to believe there isn’t enough parking downtown, a misconception Hahn hopes this task force will tackle.

“We have plenty of parking downtown, it’s just that some people’s perception is that if you can’t park at the front door of a business then they take that as a long ways to walk,” Hahn said. “When in reality, you know, it’s like walking from the front door of West Acres (toward a store inside the mall).”

Still, Hahn said he hopes the task force can also look at whether downtown needs more parking ramps.

The Downtown Community Partnership and its Retail Committee still need to appoint members to the task force, which was formed last week and plans to meet three or four times over the next six months.

Any recommendations made by the task force would move to the Parking Commission, which acts as an advisory committee to the City Commission.

One of the first things the task force will tackle is a request from the YMCA that parking along First Avenue South between Fourth Street and Broadway be changed from 90-minute zones to two-hour zones, Nigg said.

“Maybe there’s not a whole lot we can do, is what we find out (by setting up this task force),” Nigg said. “But I think we need to be at least making sure we’re looking at some of this stuff and making sure we’re not missing any opportunities.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter Erik Burgess at (701) 241-5518