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Q: Lately there has been a lot of spouses concerned about the parking in Area 1. I have been here for almost two years now and when we first arrived here I do not recall ever having a problem finding a parking spot. Every now and then we had to use the parking lot that was on the side of the shoppette, but it has since been closed. In the past few months parking has become a major issue. 

I have also heard of people getting a ticket for parking in drop off zones and spending too much time in the parking space. Under normal circumstances I think ticketing would be fair, but because of the limited parking I believe there should be some leeway.
I also know of people who are parking in area 2 because they could not find a spot in the hospital parking lot. So my main question is, what is being done to fix this parking quandary? Or is this something that we are going to have to learn to deal with?

A: I appreciate your contacting the Commander's Connection on a long standing Aviano issue. We are definitely aware of the parking situation in Area A1 and realize your frustration may have increased recently with some of the ongoing construction. In short, the current construction, when done, will improve safety and the current parking situation.

Before providing you the specifics on the changes and improvements, let me provide you some background on Area A1 and the associated parking. When it comes to parking, Area A1 is a real challenge and we have a limited amount of space being shared by 18 different high-demand community functions. These include our school, hospital, chapel, education center, shoppette/bowling center, youth center, CDC,community center, library and many others all located on a small piece of land.

On a typical workday, more than 3,000 vehicles enter A1 (not including the 48 school buses) and compete for one of the 1,115 parking spots. Of these vehicles, approximately 800 are "long-term" workers within Area A1. The remaining 2,200 visitors use the various facilities on a temporary basis,and our traffic surveys show they typically stay within Area A1 for about one hour at a time. This is no easy problem, but with these numbers we estimate Area A1 currently has just enough parking spots to meet peak parking demand.

The real problem is the location of the parking spots, as our configuration does not always place them exactly where we want them to be. This means getting close to the facility you're visiting and minimizing your walk can be a problem. As you mentioned, we also have a couple of temporary construction projects which currently reduce the number of spaces next to the Youth Center/Bldg 110 and in the rear upper lot beyond the Laundromat. The Youth Center/Bldg 110 project will conclude by the end of March and are our other project will conclude in May. Both are actually long term fixes to help improve our parking and walking situations within Area 1.

While there is no easy fix given our limited space, we have taken several measures already and have several additional initiatives in the works to alleviate parking issues. While none of these will make things ideal, we will continue to work on improving parking for our Airman and families the best we can.

1. We recently re-designated a number of parking spaces within Area A1. We balanced the need for dedicated parking spaces (handicapped, patient, child drop off, CDC) with our need for rotational spaces (timed parking for shoppette/bowling center, education center), and general open parking which mostly accommodates our permanent employees. In locating these spaces, we gave priority and facility proximity to our customers/patients and located most employee/permanent party parking to the perimeter of the Area. Given our shortages and our ongoing construction we have also correspondingly adjusted our parking enforcement. We currently concentrate on enforcing our dedicated parking areas and potential safety situations. This means if someone illegally parks in a handicapped, patient, child drop-off, or dedicated reserved space they will most likely be ticketed. As you can attest, we need everyone's cooperation to ensure these spaces are used only for their intended purpose. Likewise, we would encourage all to respect the timed parking areas as well but are much more lenient on these unless we find blatant abuse (parked all day in a 30-min space). While we wish we did not have to enforce parking at all, you can hopefully understand our need to reserve some of these dedicated spaces for their intended purpose.

2. We have installed a pedestrian bridge to connect the upper perimeter parking lot with the main shoppette parking area. The large upper lot across the stream from the shoppette has more than 70 open spaces that typically sit empty because of their distance from the various facilities (800 feet to the shoppette). With the installation of this bridge, the walking distance will be cut by a third to many locations on the shoppette side of the stream. This is even closer than some of the spots in the current shoppette lot or any of the spots in the old side shoppette lot which closed.

4. Since not every parking spot can be immediately adjacent to the destination, some walking will always be required. To assist we are working on several walkway projects to make walking as quick and pleasant as possible. Look for these over the next year or so.

6. Finally, just so you know we're continually looking for ways to improve our A1 parking we also investigated building a parking garage.
Unfortunately for DoD facilities here in Europe, above or below ground parking structures are not permitted due to safety and force protection concerns.

As you can see, we are aware of the parking issues in Area A1 and are taking active steps to improve the situation. While these short-term projects will improve our situation somewhat, we will never be able to accommodate the desire for every patron to park directly next to the facilities they are visiting. As a result, cooperation, patience, team work, and the understanding of our Aviano families will always be a key component in our parking plan.

Thanks for your great question and thanks for allowing us to explain all we're trying to do.