Have car, will travel — unless there is nowhere to park. This is the quandary New Haven residents and visitors to the Elm City have faced for years.

The lack of garage and on-street parking in downtown New Haven has been a perennial problem for the city. But with the soon-to-be completed renovations of the Temple and Crown Street garages, this pressure may soon be alleviated. And though the number of spaces the city offers is not increasing, the parking options have become more attractive.

“When people come to New Haven to work, play or visit, you need to provide adequate parking,” said William Kilpatrick, executive director of the New Haven Parking Authority. “It needs to be safe, clean and user friendly. The efforts to change the face of the Crown Street and Temple Street garages are consistent with this.”

Key to this goal is the $600,000 restoration of the Crown Street garage. The overhaul includes a lighting and electrical upgrade and overall modernization of the 720-space facility.

The Temple Street garage is a larger project. The ongoing $9 million renovation, which is expected to be finished this year and which is already months ahead of schedule, is central to improving the parking situation in the city, as long as more drivers begin to use its 1,247 spaces, Kilpatrick said.

“Right now the only surplus spaces in the city are in the Temple Street garage,” said Brian McGrath, director of the New Haven Traffic and Parking Department. “If there was a shuttle from the garage to offices like there is for the Yale system, that would help.”

The city had hoped to renovate the Temple Street garage earlier but waited to monitor the progress of the Long Wharf mall project, as its outcome would influence the parking situation downtown.

“Improvements were deferred to get a better idea of what’s happening in the general area of the parking structure,” Kilpatrick said. “We needed to find out whether the layout of the garage would compliment what was needed in the city. Now it’s clear that the Temple Street garage is the salvation for the downtown parking problem.”

But not all New Haven officials, merchants, and residents agree that garages are the fix-it for New Haven’s parking woes.

“We survey our customers, and one of the questions we ask them is about parking,” Peter Indorf, owner of Peter Indorf Jewelers on Chapel Street and founder of the United Merchants Association, a coalition of downtown merchants. “That’s the question we always get the lowest rating on. There are no spaces on the street, and people don’t want to park in the garages.”

City officials acknowledged that street parking is more appealing to shoppers, but pointed out that ironically, many merchants are part of the problem.

“All the meters are filled all the time, but there’s no turnover,” McGrath said. “People, including many store owners, are staying over the two-hour limit, and this doesn’t allow for the maximum amount of parking for the maximum number of people.”

Indorf, himself a merchant, acknowledged that this limits the number of parking spaces available in commercial areas.

“The big problem is that a lot of merchants and their staff park on the street,” he said. “All we have to do is get the people who are here all day off the street and into the back lots. Just that would make a big difference.”

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