Medford motorists shopping downtown could soon encounter a new adventure — backing their cars into diagonal parking spaces.
The Medford Parking Commission is exploring the idea of swapping out parallel parking spots along the north side of Main Street for diagonal spaces from Riverside to Oakdale avenues. One of three travel lanes would be removed and a bike lane would installed. The south side of the street would continue to have parallel parking.
"I think it's a good idea," said Jolynn Dehle, 53, of Medford, who was downtown Tuesday. "Parallel parking sucks."
The parking commission is reviewing the idea, which would ultimately require City Council approval.
The move would add anywhere from three to eight more parking spaces along a congested stretch of Main, from Riverside to Front Street, that now has 48 spaces.
More analysis will determine exactly how many spaces total could be added from Riverside to Oakdale.
Parking Commission Chairman Mark Millner said the idea has worked successfully in Portland, Seattle and about two dozen other cities in the U.S. and Canada.
"What makes it so wonderful is that you back in and when you head out, your visibility is so much better," he said.
Reducing the road to two travel lanes could calm traffic, particularly at intersections such as Bartlett Street and Main, where it is difficult at times for pedestrians to cross.
Millner said backing in would improve loading and unloading for customers.
Adding more parking spaces along Main would offset the loss of parking spaces at the Middleford garage, which is being remodeled to provide a pedestrian passageway from Main to Bartlett streets.
Jim Curtis, owner of On the Wall Inc. on Main, said he would like to make sure that deliveries still can be made through the front of his store.
"I'd hate to lose that," he said. "We don't have a back door for deliveries."
Another issue for Curtis was losing a travel lane and the potential for causing congestion at the intersection of Main and Central Avenue.
Curtis said he wasn't familiar with the idea of backing into a diagonal space, but he didn't think parking was much of an issue, at least in front of his store.
"I do think parking problems are more of a perceived reality," he said.
He said he wasn't happy to see the two-hour time limit for parking changed to one hour.
Shoppers in the downtown also appeared unfamiliar with the idea of backing into a diagonal space, but didn't see it as a major issue.
"I tend to back in anyway (parallel parking)," said Lauren Fair, a 26-year-old from Central Point shopping in downtown Medford Tuesday. "To me it wouldn't be a big change."
Fair, who succeeded in her attempts to parallel park Tuesday, said she hopes city officials consider any safety issues before making the change.
Chad Baize said he had a difficult time visualizing how one would back into a diagonal parking space.
"To back up — it might cause a bit of an issue," the 34-year-old Medford resident said.
Dee Orvino, 48, of Medford, struggled to parallel park along Main Street Tuesday afternoon, saying she could see the possible benefits of backing into a diagonal parking space.
"It'd be interesting, but we could adjust," she said.
Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.