Provo City Library tests new overnight parking program

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Provo City Library now offers overnight parking in a new pilot program. New signs clarify this change from the old policy that disallowed any overnight parking. (Emily Jorgensen)

Provo City coordinators and the Provo Library director have come together to offer overnight parking to residents living south of the the BYU campus.

The program is currently a pilot study that went into effect on Jan. 1. The city and the library agreed to begin with 20 parking spaces located on 600 N that are part of Provo Library’s lot. Students are now allowed to park from 8 p.m. to 10 a.m. for a fee of $20 for the semester. Provo City Library Director Gene Nelson had been working in conjunction with Provo Parking and Sustainability Coordinator Austin Taylor on solutions for parking problems for residents.

“It’s something that could be quite helpful for the immediate community,” Nelson said.

Residents apply through Taylor, who verifies their address and issues them a parking pass. “On-street parking, it’s in high demand. It’s hard to find a spot if you are going in at nighttime to park on the street,” Taylor said. “The library has had a rule that says ‘no parking overnight here,’ so it’s sad to see that not used.”

Taylor said all the parking spots were sold within five days of becoming available.

Nelson’s main concern with the pilot program is possible abuse of the time limit. He said that the library hosts a number of events and programs that draw patrons from all over Provo. At 10 a.m., the library opens for its story time programs, and Nelson said the north and south lots fill up with parents and grandparents bringing in groups of children to participate.

“I think we’ve got this conundrum. Students are looking desperately for a place to park; they want to find it free, if not cheap,” Nelson said. “But I also understand that the parking lots were not built for student parking. They were built for those coming to utilize the library.”

Nelson and Taylor said they needed the library parking to remain available for incoming library patrons during the day and couldn’t allow student cars to remain in library spots 24/7 without repercussions.

They found a solution through modern technology: a license plate reader. The city employee running the reader verifies those who have signed the agreement are gone by 10 a.m. by scanning their license plates. If the car is still parked after that time, the city employee issues a ticket. The violator is charged $50 per incident.

“It’s not every day, but it’s random. So you never know when you’re going to get caught if you’re not obeying the rules,” Taylor said.

He said the funds from parking pass sales first go to pay the city employees who enforce the parking rules, and the remainder goes to the library. Both Nelson and Taylor said if the pilot program is a success, they expect the semester fee to increase.

Taylor said other parking options, like those offered by Old Academy Apartments located north of the library, charge about $150 for the semester. “But with that you get 24-hour access and a covered parking spot. It all depends on what people are willing to pay,” Taylor said.

The primary reason Nelson and Taylor chose to start with a $20 fee was because the library was offering overnight parking with firm limitations.

Nelson said he doesn’t encourage selling spots for the library’s underground parking because he is concerned about the safety of people coming in at night, as well as the protection of the library.

“When things are out of sight, they’re out of mind. I would be dreadfully concerned about an assault of one sort or another on an individual in our underground parking garage at 3 a.m. as they’re coming in from visiting friends or a party,” he said.

Currently, the library has security cameras in their underground parking but no “live body” monitoring those cameras, as Nelson put it. He hypothesized that if the program were a success and funds allowed it, then security personnel could be allowed to monitor overnight activity in the underground parking garage. He also speculated that specified spots in the above-ground north and south lots would become available, providing potentially 100 to 150 overnight spots.

Taylor said Provo residents have proposed tearing down residential lots or apartment complexes for parking garages. He explained parking garages are not pretty or cheap and don’t solve the need for student housing south of campus. Taylor said he’s looking at the existing resources in Provo and how to adapt them to current needs.

“It’s an interesting dilemma. I think we might be on the verge of finding a partial solution. We’re not going to solve all the parking problems,” Nelson said, “but I think we can help alleviate some of them.”

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