Downtown visitors don’t very often park in the Transportation Center garage during the evening hours and weekends.
The facility, with about 1,400 spaces, sits mostly empty, even when large crowds funnel into the nearby Oregon District to dine, drink and make merry.
Some drivers will circle East Fifth Street multiple times in search of on-street or surface parking, rather than pulling into the garage where they are certain to find a spot.
But the city of Dayton is upgrading the garage and is reducing its parking fee to $1 after 7 p.m. to try to make it more customer friendly and increase its use.
Visitors, especially from suburban communities who are accustomed to free parking, may be more willing to use the garage if it only requires forking over $1.
The walk from the Transportation Center garage to Oregon Express or the Oregon District’s paid lot behind Omega Music is less than 700 feet.
That is roughly the same distance separating the paid lot from Toxic Brew Co.
The Oregon District isn’t easy to see because of the overpass. People tend to want to park as close to their destination as possible, and not being able to see it can be an obstacle, officials said.
“The railroad overpass creates a sort of psychological barrier,” said Tony Kroeger, Dayton city planner. “There’s a lot of things that play into the feeling that it is farther away than it actually is.”
Also, the garage in years past has been dimly lit and lacked signage, which hasn’t made it particularly welcoming or easy to navigate.
The garage also can be more expensive than the paid parking options in the Oregon District. The lots in the district charge $3 to park between 4 p.m. and 4 a.m. every day.
Right now, the transportation garage’s fee rises to $4 after 90 minutes and $6 after two and a half hours.
But the city of Dayton in coming weeks will modify the transportation garage’s fee structure so that people are charged only $1 to park after 7 p.m. For one buck, vehicles can remain parked in the garage until about 4 a.m.
The change is intended to better use what city leaders have called a “beast” of a structure that takes up most of two city blocks.
The city also is making other investments in the garage and the surrounding urban environment to make it feel more connected to the Oregon District and more attractive.
Three vinyl signs will be attached to the garage above the East Fifth Street entrance to better instruct drivers where to enter and to advertise the reduced $1 fee.
The garage will get new lighting and other new signage. A colorful new mural will be painted on the ground floor exterior of the garage.
Planters and trees are going in to make it more visually appealing.
The changes are timely. The Oregon District area has welcomed new businesses along Wayne Avenue, including Troll Pub Dayton and Glasz Bleu Oven.
Also, the Dayton Levitt Pavilion is under construction at the nearby Dave Hall Plaza, which is expected to draw a couple thousand people to its 50 free concerts each year.
Concert-goers will need places to park, and the transportation garage is one of the closer options.