Parking is a problem Port can live with

“Port Washington does not have a parking problem.”

City officials and various hired experts have said that for years.

“The number one complaint we get is about parking.”

Port Washington Mayor Ted Neitzke said that at last week’s Common Council meeting.

It is obvious the public understands the downtown parking situation better than the consultants paid to analyze it.

It seems the consultants counted the parking spaces in the downtown area, did some math, applied a formula known only to certified parking analysts and then assured the city there was no parking problem. That formula apparently did not take into account the fact that most of public parking spaces are located west of Franklin Street, several blocks from the marina district that is a magnet for visitors and residents and their vehicles. One of the surveys was conducted in the off-season when the marina district is mostly deserted.

The parking problem that Port wasn’t supposed to have is real. During the warm months, the marina district is chockablock with people and their vehicles. Parking is scarce; there is not nearly enough of it for those who want it.

This is the unavoidable consequence of intense development, some of it on space that was once devoted to parking, and it is about to get much worse. In a sort of perfect storm of planning blunders, the largest parking lot open to the general public in the marina district will soon disappear under a sprawling building that will house a brewpub and event facility. At the same time that the public parking spaces will be lost, the development, which will provide no parking for its staff or customers, is expected to attract hundreds of people looking for a place to park.

The parking chaos caused by this misguided development can be added to a virtual indictment of city officials in several administrations who sold the publicly owned parking lot to a developer and in the face of strong public opposition facilitated its use as the site for a multi-story commercial building at the edge of the harbor.

What, then, should be done about the marina district parking problem?

The answer is—nothing. Because nothing can be done. The marina district is going to be a traffic and parking mess on the busiest weekends of summer. . . and the world won’t end.

The public has a natural ability to adjust to frustrations like this. If there is no parking available, some people will use the ample spaces available west of Franklin Street and walk a few blocks to their destination. Some will give up and go some place else.

It is not the city’s responsibility to provide parking amenities so that people can drive up to, say, the brewpub, step out of their car and up to the bar for a beer. In many cities with thriving shopping, entertainment and restaurant districts, parking is distant at best, and customers happily walk.

To its credit, the city government has made the Port downtown area an enjoyable and safe place to walk, and it is a short walk from parking lots to Franklin Street businesses and marina district attractions.

With no practical solution for the parking problem possible, it isn’t surprising that a far-fetched mitigation strategy has been proposed. Mayor Neitzke suggested providing golf carts to give rides to folks who can’t park close enough to their shopping, dining or fishing destinations to suit them.

The mayor said many people have told him that if marina and park department employees can use golf carts, the public should have the same opportunity.

Apparently someone missed the point that the city employees using those carts to travel around the lakefront and parks are working at their jobs. People there to enjoy themselves on their free time can find their own way to get around. Is it too much to ask fishermen, for example, to walk a few blocks to enjoy their pastime at the splendid harbor facilities the city has provided?

In any case, adding a fleet of jitneys designed to be used on golf courses to downtown traffic would only exacerbate weekend congestion.

The city doesn’t need to go that extreme or any others to deal with its parking problem.

Just face it. On some days in some parts of the city, parking will be a problem. It can’t be fixed. So let’s live with it. And walk a bit.


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Ozaukee Press

Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

125 E. Main St.
Port Washington, WI 53074
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