Study finds Black Mountain has enough parking, needs better traffic signaling

Karrigan Monk
Black Mountain News
A traffic study has found that overall, Black Mountain’s downtown parking is sufficient, but there is a lack of perceived convenient parking. Many street spaces are taken by business owners and workers, leaving patrons to park elsewhere.

Black Mountain has enough parking — though it may not seem that way — but could use a better system for traffic signals, a consultant told the town's board.

The results of the town's Parking and Circulation Study were presented at a special Board of Aldermen meeting on Jan. 9.

The town contracted with Traffic Planning and Design Inc. in May to do the study in order to evaluate the current parking and traffic patterns and identify any opportunities for improvement.

Senior project manager Colin Kinton, who presented the results, said Black Mountain should think of parking as a town program, like it would a park, and should budget for it annually.

“There’s not one simple solution out there,” Kinton said. “It’s not an easy, ‘Let’s build a parking garage and that will solve all our problems.’”

There's enough parking

Kinton said the study found that overallBlack Mountain’s downtown parking is sufficient, but there is a lack of perceived convenient parking. He said this means cars would circle several times looking for on-street parking before going elsewhere to find off-street parking.

He described on-street parking as the being the most desirable, but noted these spots are often taken by business owners and employees, leaving patrons to find parking elsewhere.

More:Town seeks public input on downtown circulation and parking

Solving this problem would involve designating long-term parking for employees and business owners to free up on-street spaces.

In addition, the study suggested making off-street parking more accessible and easier to find. Kinton said this could be done using signs as well as different mapping strategies.

Timing traffic signals

A more expensive issue Kinton presented was improving the traffic lights system at intersections. The study found that while the lights work well independently, they are not working as a system.

“You may get stopped at this signal and then get stopped at the very next signal,” he said. “Whereas if the signals were coordinated, you may get stopped at the first one but then you could flow through the next one or two signals.”

When Alderman Larry Harris asked for a cost for this project, Kinton estimated anywhere from $200,000 to $250,000.

A study found Black Mountain's traffic signals could be updated and better timed to improve the flow of traffic.

“It has to be funded,” Harris said. “You have to find funding.”

While a few lights at intersections have been recently brought up to date, many are older and would need to be updated to be compatible to become part of a system. According to Kinton, installing a communication system could improve the efficiency of the signals up to 25%.

If the town moves forward, Black Mountain would need to work with the N.C. Department of Transportation to fund and develop this project.