UPDATE: For the last year, downtown Chattanooga has been involved with a $250,000 parking study. The River City Company and CARTA are looking at how to improve and better meet the needs of people who park.

This is the most in-depth parking study in about two decades, the report found that the city has a good amount of parking but isn't utilizing what's available.

Not being able to find a spot downtown isn't good for businesses or people visiting the city. It’s one reason why the River City Company and CARTA brought in consultants to learn about the challenges and opportunities when it comes to parking downtown. The study captured the current state of parking downtown and provides strategic recommendations for addressing and balancing the current parking needs of downtown's diverse set of organizations, businesses and residents while also considering future development.

The study's primary analysis which counted both on-street and off-street spaces with public and private access, the study also measured how much these spaces were used on a typical weekday and Saturday to understand normal patterns of parking activity. This allowed the study team to understand true gaps in parking potential, looking beyond an individual parking facility but considering the needs of the entire district.

Amy Donahue with River City Company said the research shows that there is plenty of spaces, more 43,000 to be exact.

"The overwhelming recommendation there was work with what you already have,” Donahue said.

However, only a third of the parking downtown is available to the public, most spaces are restricted to employees only. The study suggests looking into finding ways to share parking.

"If you only have 20 employees and again they're only using those spaces from 8 to 5 Monday through Friday. It does create a big portion of the supply that could be used for other uses while servicing your employees too,” she said.

Some residents think sharing parking could be an effective solution when big events are in town.

"If businesses open then that would probably be closer to whatever event there is,” Hang Conner said.

The study says the cheaper and quicker solution to parking issues is to better utilize what we have before building more parking garages.

"And then if there are other spaces that we actually need to build new parking infrastructure, where can that make the most impact and how can we create the most access for the most people,” Donahue said.

Nonetheless, in select areas such as the Health & Ed district, UTC campus area and the MLK district, available supply is constrained.

The year-long study was led by The Chattanooga Area Regional Transportation Authority/ Chattanooga Parking Authority (CARTA/CPA) and River City Company, in partnership with the Lyndhurst and Benwood Foundations, the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, Siskin Hospital, Erlanger Health System and the City of Chattanooga.

To move this report from study to action, River City Company along with CARTA/CPA has an implementation team of downtown stakeholders and partners working to systematically execute recommendations from the study. 

PREVIOUS STORY: A new study of downtown parking released Sunday found that parking is meeting public need right now, but could be improved.

The Chattanooga Area Regional Transportation Authority/ Chattanooga Parking Authority (CARTA/CTA) and River City Company led the study, which explained that only one-third of the 43,000 parking spaces downtown are available for public use.

The study provided recommendations on how the city can open more of those spaces to the public.

"Downtown Chattanooga, like many urban areas, has challenges when it comes to parking," President and CEO of River City Company Kim White said. "For us, it's making more of the parking that currently exists in downtown available to more people."

One idea presented is to create a shared parking area where businesses let the public park in their lots in the evenings and on weekends when employees are off. According to the study, this could bring in a revenue stream for businesses in the area.

The study also recommended that strategies to add future parking to the area that can be used for more than one organization or business. 

"One example that the study has explored is a shared parking garage in the Health and Education district that would serve both Erlanger and Siskin Hospitals, but also potentially UTC and the Hamilton County Health Department," a spokesperson for the study said.

River City Company and CARTA/CPA have put together an implementation team of downtown stakeholders and partners to work together to "systematically execute recommendations from the study."