As downtown Franklin’s popularity has grown, parking has become a hot topic of conversation.

While the city offers hundreds of free parking spaces along the streets and in the two public parking garages, those spaces can be hard to get by mid-morning. Courthouse visitors usually fill most of the 4th Avenue Garage, and church visitors, business and city employees occupy much of the 2nd Avenue Garage.

Some private lots converted to pay parking over the past two years, and while the rate is reasonable compared to other parts of Middle Tennessee, paid parking is not an idea that is embraced by all of downtown’s stakeholders. Some don’t think it is very welcoming, while others say they meet many visitors from other cities where paid parking is the norm, so they are used to it.

Historic Downtown Franklin is fortunate that there are so many successful restaurants, retail shops and other service businesses here, but that also means more employees who drive themselves to work. Those employees need a place to park, so to avoid paying to park every day, many park their cars for the entire shift on the various streets downtown, which has caught the attention of members of the Downtown Neighborhood Association. Some of their members only have street parking with their smaller lots, so if those spots near their homes are taken, they are inconvenienced. An active group of Downtown Franklin residents, the DNA has been working with the DFA all year to help the city address downtown Franklin’s parking woes.

This spring, both groups completed a survey of their memberships. Each survey collected information about parking from the two groups, and the results were collected and presented to the Franklin City Administrator Eric Stuckey, Assistant City Administrator Vernon Gerth, and City Engineer Paul Holzen.

The DFA survey received responses from about 75 members. When asked how far they usually walk to downtown businesses, most said they walk from 1 to 3 blocks, with the farthest being 5 blocks. Most respondents felt that the parking we currently have is safe, and most prefer surface lots over the public garages.

Most controversial was the recently implemented 2-hour parking limit on Main Street, which was intended to increase turnover in the spaces in front of Main Street businesses. However, some businesses, such as salons and attorneys’ offices, say that time limit is not amenable to their business model, where appointments and meetings may take longer than the two hours currently allowed.

The city staff accepted the survey results from both groups and promised to update us soon with their plans to address parking demand. Immediate changes include a policy where all reserved city parking spaces have been moved to the top floor of the Second Avenue Garage, which frees up lower levels for visitors. The city also recently changed the one-hour spots on East Main between the square and First Avenue to two-hour spots. Longer-term options, depending on city  budget approval, could include a new multi-level city hall building with a main-level parking garage.

The city and the DFA are also exploring ways to make sure visitors to downtown know where the long-term parking is located, and we always want to hear your ideas too!