Irregularity in Raleigh parking spots.

A Tight Squeeze

In Buzz, December 2019/January 2020 by Tracy JonesLeave a Comment

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Parking space too small for your vehicle? It’s not just your imagination. 

Holiday shopping is right around the corner which means crowds, the stress of finding the perfect gift and parking in congested areas. Who among us hasn’t stalked shoppers who look like they’re walking back to their cars, idled in some parking deck with our blinker on just waiting to grab a space—any space—regardless of how well our vehicle fits in it?

On that point, CBS 17 news anchor and reporter Bill Young set out to determine whether all parking spots in Raleigh are created equal; turns out, they’re not. 

Young took the City of Raleigh’s current parking codes and put 10 local parking lots, selected at random, to the test, measuring spaces to see if they met the code.

“The majority met it,” Young says of his findings. The interesting thing about the lots whose parking spaces didn’t meet the current code, he adds, that property owners skirt the rules to maintain compliance. 

“Essentially, nobody is doing anything necessarily illegal,” Young says. “But that doesn’t mean that it is consistent with the current code. They can be grandfathered in. There are others that are wide enough to meet the standards for compact spaces, but aren’t necessarily marked as such. In a lot of instances, it’s a situation where they are in the process of redoing the striping and reworking the parking lots. So, while that’s not the case currently, it’s on the to-do list. It’s okay in this interim if it’s not currently marked as a compact spot.”

For his research, Young drove all over the city in a Nissan Altima, Wake County’s most registered vehicle, but tried to stay primarily in shopping areas since we’re heading into the holiday season. Of the 10 lots he tested, Young found three areas with some issues: Crabtree Valley Mall, the Pleasant Valley Promenade on Glenwood Avenue and the parking lot just outside of Marbles Kids Museum. At the Marbles lot, for instance, some spaces are clearly designated as compact while others are not; the way the spaces appear to be designated are inconsistent. (The lot is registered to a standalone LLC, with no listed phone number). 

Young says he spoke to the real estate developer at Pleasant Valley Promenade and learned that the shopping center is undergoing major renovations. 

“Because it was so outdated for so many years, their primary focus is bringing the parking lot up to ADA standards,” Young says. “You start getting into really big trouble if you do not meet those.” Young says that while the shopping center may not have the proper signage now, it shows good faith that its operators are working toward that goal. 

Young notes that all of the parking lots he visited do in fact meet ADA standards, providing accessible parking spaces to those who need them, including people with disabilities. 

As for Crabtree Valley Mall, Young went to city officials and asked them to pull codes for the parking lot. There are 3,600 permits for the parking spaces at the mall, essentially one permit per space. 

“There was no way the city could reasonably go space by space and see which ones met requirements,” Young says. “There are plenty of spaces that I tested at Crabtree that meet current code. There were also some that were way under current code, even for compact.”

Young reached out to Crabtree for comment but at the time of publication the mall had not responded.

Of course, numerous factors contribute to how well a car will fit into a space, including the vehicle’s size and how well the driver is able to park. For most people who get a door ding in a parking lot, the person parked next to them is the culprit or, maybe, they’d complain to the business about the size of its spaces— especially if they can’t get back into their vehicle because someone parked too close. 

No one, however, takes these grievances to city inspectors.

“It does take quite a few steps to make this an issue,” Young says. “Going back as far as the longest serving representative in city compliance, they’ve never had a complaint about a parking space not meeting code. My goal wasn’t to shake things up, but to put something out there and get people thinking. When they pull into a parking spot and it seems a little tight, it’s not their imagination, it’s not their parking skills, it’s not the person parking next to them. It might be that that parking space does not meet current code.”

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