By Mary Jane Gore
Fifeville is a neighborhood of new avenues and narrow side streets. Some curbs are permit parking only; others are open. The well-positioned neighborhood, near West Main Street and adjacent to the UVA Health System and other university buildings, is now fighting to preserve its streets for resident parking.
“It’s getting worse and worse,” laments Dawn Woodford, who’s lived in Fifeville for 20 years. “Someone visiting a resident can’t find parking space. Sometimes someone parks so you can’t even get in the driveway.”
Empty spaces fill up quickly, mainly in the morning between 7 and 8am as people leave their cars and head to work. There is “no place to park,” says Woodford, and in her view, the expansion of the UVA Emergency Department area will lead to worse congestion.
“The issue of parking in our neighborhoods that surround the university and the university hospital is certainly one that is of concern given the impact it has on the quality of life of our residents,” says City Councilor Heather Hill, who recently became one of two councilors representing the city on the Planning and Coordination Council.
UVA Health System does provide parking options, though employees must pay more for nearby garage slots. “All health system team members have options to park in university-owned parking lots or garages,” says Eric Swensen, public information officer for UVA Health System. “Some of those parking areas are within walking distance of the UVA Medical Center.”
Employees also may park at satellite locations, such as U-Hall/John Paul Jones Arena and Scott Stadium, and then ride a bus. The contractor for the hospital expansion project has rented parking spaces for construction workers, Swensen notes.
Related problems also are evident. “As I observed while visiting a neighborhood off of Cherry Avenue, beyond parking is the issue of individuals walking through private property, crossing the railroad line, and then climbing over the fence to get to their place of work,” Hill says of an early April visit.
One solution would be more UVA employee parking in the area. “There are no park-and-ride locations near the hospital, and no new parking areas are planned at this time,” Swensen says.
UVA Health System is making plans that could help to alleviate the crowding. By realigning and relocating its ambulatory care sector by 2024, the footprint of care near the hospital would shrink from a current 413,000 visits to about 200,000 visits annually. The Fontaine Research Center could double its visits—from 182,000 per year now to about 400,000 in the future.
Permit parking is another idea that could keep nonresidents off the Fifeville streets.
“I would encourage those streets that have not implemented zone permit parking to evaluate it with their neighbors and communicate back to the city what hurdles may be preventing alignment,” Hill suggests. “Is it cost, which we can likely work through some options to address? Is it convenience, as permits make it difficult for guests to visit residents depending on the time of day? Other reasons?”
Woodford says the police don’t always come. Hill agrees that “enforcement can be a challenge given the relatively limited resources.”
Woodford’s bottom line is clear: “Why should we pay to fix UVA’s broken parking situation” as rents rise in Fifeville?