A parallel parking clinic may ease downtown parking anxiety and misconceptions about availability

There’s nowhere to park downtown! A fallacious yet, common complaint when it comes to going downtown, at least, for some drivers. Anyone who’s ever seen a map of downtown Anchorage will undoubtedly argue that there is plenty of parking. Anchorage has large surface parking lots, but many are privately owned and can be prohibitively expensive, especially if parking for more than an hour. There are several garages, most of which are adequate and affordable, and they’re rarely at capacity, so what do people mean when they say there isn’t any parking?

As a result of suburban conditioning, many drivers are accustomed to parking directly in front of their destination in a diagonal or conventionally striped parking lot – not parallel parking.

Anchorage has plenty of available parallel parking spaces, and they’re free after 6 pm and on weekends, yet some drivers are reluctant to take advantage. Sometimes it may be because of “Parallelophobia.”

An article published by the Zebra cited a survey of 1,000 American drivers, which found nearly half the participants stated they had a fear of parallel parking. Surprisingly, hitting another vehicle wasn’t the leading concern. Only 21% were worried about hitting another car, while 24% were more concerned with holding up traffic. This is a valid concern in Anchorage, considering the fast-moving traffic on 5th and 6th Avenues.

Driving in suburban settings with ample conventional parking can dull the skills of even the best drivers, but I was also surprised to learn that even though parallel parking is a requirement of the Alaska driver’s exam, 14 states don’t require it at all.

I ran a short Twitter poll that seems to indicate that Anchorage drivers may not be as confident in their parallel parking skills as they could be. I realize this isn’t exactly a scientific poll with only 11 votes but, still a good indicator.

What can we do to boost confidence?

Anchorage’s parking agency Easy Park manages on-street parking meters and city garages. Easy Park could occasionally host instructional parking clinics. The clinic could help drivers refresh their parallel parking skills on a downtown street with some traffic cones and a driving coach, maybe even the use of an Easy Park vehicle. More advanced courses could include parking on a hill to teach drivers how to turn their wheels when facing uphill vs. downhill as well as parking best practices and safety tips.

The clinics could be offered as a free service with a suggested donation amount to help fund Easy Park maintenance and improvements or coordinated with a charity to collect donations of food, toys, clothes, etc.

Helping Anchorage drivers be more comfortable with parallel parking will help residents adapt to an increasingly urban setting with fewer conventional parking spaces and surface lots as well as reduce collisions and boost revenue when drivers choose a meter over a more expensive private lot.