A parking study is underway in Camden and an informal advisory group that will assist with the study met for the first time July 30.

The study will look at the areas within a quarter-mile, or a five-minute walk, of downtown Camden. Consultant John Burke, of Marion, Mass., has been hired to conduct the study.

An inventory of parking spaces on the streets, as well as spaces in public and private lots, will be created, for the purpose of identifying the number and types of spaces, such as on or off-street, 2-hour or 15-minute limit, and public or private.

An occupancy survey of the spaces will be conducted during peak demand months, either in July or August. Occupancy counts during two-hour intervals between 9 a.m. and 8 p.m. will be conducted to establish typical weekday and Saturday patterns. This survey will produce data on both occupancy and the percentage spaces are used, and will include all public spaces as well as “key private and institutional lots where general purpose public parking is allowed,” according to the the scope of services.

Parking data will be analyzed to determine the usage of spaces, which will be categorized as at capacity, efficient or targeted use, acceptable use or underutilized. “The analysis will also assess whether commercial curb space is turning over at efficient levels and if not why.”

In addition to real-time parking data, the consultant will review prior parking studies, reports relating to pedestrians and bicycles, parking citation data, media reports about parking issues, current parking regulations, and recent or planned changes to the regulations and any social media discussions.

The advisory committee is tasked with developing guiding principles for the study. As a starting point, Burke will provide a master list of guiding principles developed as part of parking studies undertaken in other New England towns of comparable size to Camden.

At a later stage, Burke will present to the advisory committee the new information collected from stakeholder interviews and the parking inventory and seek the committee’s input.  The committee will review and have input on all aspects of the study, including preliminary and proposed recommendations.

Stakeholders are described as people representing various parking user groups, including chamber of commerce, retail and business owners, employees, parking lot owners and police department parking enforcement. These people will be asked for their observations, perceptions and concerns regarding how the current parking system is meeting the needs of downtown Camden, according to the scope of work.

Two public meetings will be held to present information about the study and data collected, and to provide input to Burke and the advisory committee.

An evaluation of parking improvement alternatives will consider whether “there is a lack of public parking to support businesses, residents and visitors, a parking management problem, or both.”

If the answer is yes to one or both of the above, recommendations will be made on parking management strategies “to better balance the use of the parking supply and on making parking more convenient, efficient and understandable to the customer.”

Several strategies from a long list include: increasing on and off-street parking through reconfiguration or striping changes, improved signage and information on finding parking, and regulatory changes.  Metered, pay-by-phone or permit parking is also on the list.

Town Manager Audra Caler told the Select Board June 15 that Burke had begun the study and was conducting the inventory of parking spaces.

The study would look into “opportunities outside of the current system,” which she described as managing the time cars can occupy a space by having an officer walking around chalking tires and writing tickets. The study will see if there is a better way to meet the goals for downtown parking, she said. Caler described those goals as availability of parking in locations closer to businesses for people who will be there for shorter terms, and incentivizing people parking for longer terms to park in some of the town’s satellite lots.