Providing Friendly Parking in the Friendliest City

By: Pamela Corbin, CAPP, Parking Services Manager, City of Greenville S.C.

Greenville, S.C., was recently ranked as the Friendliest City in the U.S. in Conde’ Nast Traveler’s 2020 Reader’s Choice Awards. The magazine highlighted Greenville’s farm-to-table movement, craft beer scene, and natural resources, such as the beautiful Falls Park and the 19.9-mile Swamp Rabbit Trail that runs along the river through downtown. Of course, parking wasn’t mentioned—it rarely ever is—but the parking system is a major contributor to accessibility for patrons to enjoy the beautiful downtown’s retail establishments, restaurants, and parks. While it is rarely highlighted, having a user-friendly parking system most assuredly contributes to the positive perception of a city.

While Greenville is a quaint Southern town with loads of charm, it has a robust parking system to accommodate residents, employees, and visitors to downtown, with 12 parking garages totaling 7,600 spaces, three parking lots with 361 spaces, and 900 two-hour “unpaid” on-street spaces. While this is by no means the largest parking system, it does compare with larger cities such as the City of Orlando that has 10 parking garages with 8,527 parking spaces, 400 surface lot spaces, and 1,000 metered spaces. While the sizes of the two cities are quite different, the parking systems are quite similar.
Greenville’s mayor had the vision of turning Greenville into a world-class city and destination, which included having an adequate and robust parking system to include unpaid, on-street parking and an accessible and customer-driven parking system to meet the growth of the city.

To compliment the vision, the first hour of parking in the garage is complimentary, as is weekend parking in two locations from Friday evenings until Monday morning; however, event rates do prevail during an event.

The question has often been posed, “How do you stay in the black? It must be from writing all those parking violations that are issued in those two-hour parking spaces.” While we do issue parking violations, this is far from a focus for the parking system. The 2019/20 budget for parking violations was only $283,913,—less than 3 percent of budgeted revenues.
Approximately 35 percent of our parking enforcement officer citizen interactions are ambassador duties, such as providing directions, recommending restaurants, or simply telling visitors about our wonderful city. The volume of patrons that come to the downtown area and the perception of “friendly” parking have contributed to our success.

Parking Services works closely with the Office of Economic Development and the City Administrator’s Office in providing that balance—a delicate one indeed. The year 2020 is one that we all will never forget, and it has provided many challenges in our industry. One of the ways we can move forward is to continue to provide the best parking services available to the businesses in the cities that we all support. Providing high levels of customer service and portraying an image of friendliness, hopefully, we can emerge stronger and better than ever before. Who knows, maybe there will be a new category in a travel magazine in the future highlighting the friendliest parking system in the U.S.