PITTSFIELD -- A steady stream of citizens took advantage of an open house event Thursday in the Colonial Theatre lobby to voice comments and concerns about parking in the downtown.
Sponsored by Nelson\Nygaard Consulting Associates, the firm hired by the city to conduct a comprehensive study of parking issues, the four-hour event included multiple maps and exhibits and the opportunity to express opinions, relate experiences and vote on suggested priorities for the study.
"People can draw on these maps. They can make comments," said Lisa Jacobson, an employee of the firm. "We hope to see the patterns."
Meanwhile, slides illustrating parking data concerning the downtown were projected on one wall of the theater lobby, and several exhibit boards provided statistics on the availability of parking spaces during peak periods and during different hours throughout the day.
"During these types of events, people who don't usually talk to each other, talk to each other," Jacobson said, referring to business owners, shoppers, downtown employees and city officials -- all of whom might have differing perspectives of parking issues and potential solutions.
Also present from Nelson\Nygaard were Ralph DeNisco, the project manager, and Liza Cohen. A number of city planning officials and elected officials also attended.
Placing her allotted six orange stickers under her choice of top issues the study should focus on was Judy Gitelson, who said a priority should be having adequate free parking.
"I think this is a great idea," she said, adding that she is concerned the city will face pressure to add more metering to raise revenue for parking facilities and other expenses.
"I don't mind walking," she said. Gitelson said she always is able to find free space in a lot when she visits the downtown.
In total, more than 40 people participated by providing input on parking issues.
An 18-member Downtown Parking Management Committee is working with the consultant and is expected to make its recommendations for improvements by spring. The transportation planners are based in San Francisco with offices in several other cities, and are considered leaders in the field.
The ad hoc study committee is composed of city officials and representatives from downtown businesses and organizations. Members will supply comments, information and feedback to the consultants.
Community Development Director Douglas Clark said he hopes the public takes advantage of the opportunities provided to voice opinions before the committee begins formulating its recommendations.
For those who missed the event, there will be further opportunities, and there is an online survey on parking posted on the city's website, www.cityofpittsfield.org.
The $75,000 parking study, which has been criticized by some as too expensive, involves complex analysis and is a specialty field, Clark said. Beyond gathering data and comments concerning parking issues, the study also will deal with management of parking facilities and finances, he said.
The recommendations won't necessarily require large expenditures to implement changes, Clark said. Some are expected to involve reorganization of the management system, which has been criticized by local officials and others as inefficient.
The study is expected to explore all aspects of parking downtown, including surface and parking deck space, signage, parking revenue and management plans for maintaining facilities, and parking policies and ticket enforcement procedures.