TWIN FALLS • Drivers have the next two weeks to try out back-in parking on Main Avenue. But if an early test is any indication, most motorists are opposed to the idea.
Shortly before noon Wednesday, the city marked off a handful of parking spots on Main Avenue South — a few in front of the D.L. Evans Bank, and a few more in front of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul thrift store — to let people experiment with back-in parking from now through May 27.
Main Avenue is being rebuilt as part of a multi-million dollar downtown infrastructure update, and a majority of the Project Advisory Committee recommended back-in parking. Mandi Roberts, a principal in Otak, the design firm working on the project, said Monday back-in parking would allow the city to keep the sidewalks at their current width because back-in angled spaces are smaller, and make Main Avenue safer for bicyclists because people pulling out could see them.
Other possible configurations include sticking with front-in parking or parallel parking on one side and either front-in or back-in on the other. The City Council hasn’t made a final decision.
A group at the Center of Prayer and Worship watched Wednesday as people tried to park. None seemed to like the idea of back-in parking. Some said they had seen several near-accidents.
“This is the stupidest thing I ever saw,” Shawn Tempolton said.
Tempolton said he wouldn’t be able to back his one-ton truck into one of the spots. He said pulling in is easier, and that changing the parking setup would drive people away from downtown.
“What they’re going to do is, people are not going to want to mess around with it, so they’re going to drive to the mall,” he said.
Many drivers pulled into the test spots anyway, such as Jesse Torres, who didn’t see the sign. At the time Torres parked, the two sections were marked by only one sign and an SUV owned by a D.L. Evans employee that was parked backed-in as a visual aid. Later in the afternoon, city employees added orange flags and another sign to mark the testing area more clearly.
Torres favors sticking with front-in parking. He said bad drivers — people not paying attention, texting or talking on their cellphones — are a bigger risk than the current parking configuration.
Susan Hall was also watching from her shop, Susan’s Antiques and Collectibles. Hall said back-in parking will not be safer and worries it would deter people from coming downtown.
“I have people who refused to shop here because they didn’t want to put a nickel in the parking meter,” Hall said. “Can you imagine the kind of stink they’re going to make?”
Hall has been researching the topic, including collecting articles about other towns that experimented with back-in parking and switched back to front-in. In Grand Junction, Colo., Deputy City Manager Tim Moore said the city tried back-in parking in a section of downtown, also as part of a redesign of its Main Street, but retrofitted those spaces to front-in in 2011.
“It wasn’t really well accepted and received by the community,” he said.
The Twin Falls Urban Renewal Agency plans to hold a demonstration on back-in parking from 4 to 6 p.m. Thursday, and the City Council will take public comment on the proposal at its May 26 meeting. City spokesman Joshua Palmer said the city hadn’t received any more feedback from people trying out the spots as of Wednesday afternoon.
“I think it’s too soon to see what we’re going to learn from the demonstration,” he said.