Langley leaders held an open house last week to garner public opinion on a planned makeover of First Street.
One of the primary hopes for the project is to improve walkability downtown, an idea we wholly endorse. But, we do have reservations about the potential loss of parking in areas frequented by visitors. Parking woes in tourist destinations, particularly in old waterfront locales that were laid out long before modern design and traffic standards, are exceedingly common so changes need to be approached with great care and thought.
Central and North Whidbey are no strangers to the hurdles associated with a lack of parking in business districts. Merchants in Coupeville have long bemoaned the cramped quarters on Front Street — Langley’s First Street equivalent. The existing parallel parking fills up fast and tourists and residents alike often have trouble finding a spot, especially on busy weekends.
Similarly, Oak Harbor’s Pioneer Way transitioned years ago to a one-way configuration, a change that also saw the abandonment of parallel parking for angled spots. The new configuration was necessary for the road design, but it also allowed for more places, a benefit that merchants and customers alike no doubt enjoy today.
Walkability is important as it adds to the character and charm of lovely little towns like Langley. And, as the saying goes, a little exercise never hurt anyone. Decision makers, merchants and residents alike just need to be prepared that it may come at the cost of a few complaints down the road.