As the City of Omaha considered changes to parking rates in downtown, the Douglas County Health Department studied parking from a different perspective – health. As part of a Health Impact Assessment (HIA), staff reviewed scientific literature, conducting interviews with business owners and developers and studied the health consequences of circling block by block to look for a parking space. The results are outlined in a Downtown Omaha Parking HIA summary report.

It turns out that circling for a parking spot can increase stress, contribute to air pollution and physical inactivity (because people walk less if they park right outside their destination). According to the HIA report, these health impacts can be minimized by the recently announced parking management changes designed to move traffic, free up on-street parking spaces and encourage individuals to park in a nearby garage or lot (for a more affordable price).

The map below shows an aerial view of downtown parking, the amount of garage and surface parking.

From a health perspective, if more people are walking around downtown it contributes to a more vibrant area, improves air quality and reduces the stress of trying to find a parking space.

New meter rates and hours of operation in downtown Omaha create an opportunity to examine all available public parking spaces. As part of an effort to develop a comprehensive parking management system, the City of Omaha’s Parking Division launched the Park Omaha Partners program – a shared parking option.

Business and private garage or lot owners can “rent” their unused parking spaces to the public and be listed on a clearinghouse of available parking options on the Park Omaha website.

 

Interested businesses or lot owners can “apply” online to become partners. Park Omaha staff will review the information. Once approved, it is entered into the City’s GIS system and it appears as a “pin” on the interactive map on the Park Omaha website.

Omaha owns and operates about half of the downtown parking spaces. The Park Omaha Partners program helps provide additional parking spaces to the public that may have otherwise been unavailable. Signage, including bright blue “P”s will be installed as a visual trail for people as they travel downtown and look for available parking places. Park Omaha Partner facilities will have signage to indicate hours, price and security measures.

The Park Omaha Partners program officially begins Oct. 13 to coincide with the implementation of new parking meter rates and hours of operation.

A recent Health Impact Assessment (HIA), conducted by the Douglas County Health Department, analyzed several aspects of parking in downtown Omaha, including a shared parking model.

Since the high demand for parking occurs at various times of the day, businesses and residents with different usage periods could share parking and expand the number of available spaces. As more parking spaces become available, visitors to the downtown area experience reduced stress over finding a space. An additional benefit is that fewer parking surfaces need to be built.