Pizza Ranch, which opened this spring after remodeling what had been a restaurant and banquet facility at 912 N. Dakota St., has a problem that would make most eateries jealous.

It needs more parking.

To get that parking, it hoped the Vermillion City Council would allow diagonal parking on North Dakota Street between East Cherry Street and S.D. Highway 50.

City staff showed how allowing diagonal parking along North Dakota would be a bad idea by pointing out that Dakota, with its parallel parking, is much less accident-prone than the one area in town with concentrated diagonal parking -- downtown Vermillion.

Ultimately, the city council denied Pizza Ranch’s diagonal parking idea, but agreed to work with the restaurant in helping it find solutions to its parking problems.

In a letter to the city council, Brian Tooker, who is associated with the Vermillion Pizza Ranch, noted that parking opportunities was one downfall that he and his associates faced when putting in the restaurant at its current location.

“Last summer, my partner and I brought city officials over to the building to see the project and share our vision for our current Pizza Ranch,” he stated in his letter.

The project included two phases -- Phase 1, which was the completion and opening of the current Pizza Ranch restaurant and Phase 2, which was to add a tenant on the additional 13,000 sq. ft. portion of our building.

“We addressed the parking issues then, and shared with the officials how we planned to add additional parking to the property, but that long term we would likely need additional solutions to support a second tenant, Tooker states in his letter. “The decision was made that it would be addressed when the time came.”

Tooker noted that a great deal of change has occurred on North Dakota Street in just the last year and it “has been transformed into a street filled with new and exciting businesses and opportunities that has huge potential to be busy year-round and become a travel destination for the surrounding communities,” said. “The block is only going to continue to grow and keep bringing people to Vermillion and this is why I'm asking to open up a discussion around parking once again.”

Tooker writes that he and his partner are trying to finish up the second portion of our building (Phase 2) and seal the deal with a potential tenant.

“With each of the potential tenants we have worked with, the parking situation is what seems to bring a continual concern, and although, we added significant parking lot area to our property with the opening of the Pizza Ranch, we are still seeking additional parking solutions,” he states in his letter. “One of the biggest opportunities we see is with the utilization of angled parking.”

Tooker and his partner proposed that the city allow “angle” or diagonal parking on the northbound lane of North Dakota Street while maintaining marked parallel parking spots along the southbound lane along Dakota Street.

“It is our belief that through designated angle parking spots, marked parallel spots, and proper planning and organization we can add a minimum of 75 more parks along this street which will offer huge benefits not only to our business, but all the businesses along this street in the following ways:

Pizza Ranch -- It adds better organization in front of our building and allows for more parking during university events. The last few years students and fans have utilized our parking lot for events and classes. The additional parks will help alleviate that overflow.

Phase 2/Potential Bar/Event Center -- We are sharing parking and need help. Our current Phase 2 plan may not go through if we cannot come up with a plan to help with additional parking.

Prairie Inn -- Parking is filled at games and during classes. The additional parks will also help alleviate that overflow.

USD -- Allows students more parking opportunities and closer access to the campus buildings with classes and events. The additional parking will also help with tailgating and congestion for game days and aid in keeping other business parking clear to conduct business.

For hotels and apartment complexes -- the additional parking allows for less overflow as well and alleviates overflow issues.

City Engineer’s Response

In his memo to the Vermillion City Council regarding this proposed change in parking on North Dakota Street, City Engineer Jose Dominguez noted that cities follow a national manual published by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) when designing streets.

“This manual sets the criteria to be used nationally so that vehicle users are familiar with what they may encounter whether they drive in New York City or in Vermillion,” Dominguez states in his memo.

He notes that the manual has the following to say about on-street parking:

● On-street parking decreases traffic capacity, impedes traffic flow, and increases crash potential.

● When parking is necessary, parallel parking should be the option.

● The use of diagonal parking presents additional problems: Sight distance for parked vehicles is negatively affected; Sight distance for vehicles in traffic flow is negatively affected; and due to the length of vehicles, a parked vehicle may block the travel way.

● On reconstruction projects or right-of-way acquisitions projects, on-street parking should be eliminated when practical to increase capacity and safety.

“Placing diagonal parking along N. Dakota Street will be detrimental to safety, lower the street capacity, and impede the flow of traffic,” Dominguez stated in his memo. He used Main Street as an example and shared data that compares Main Street from Dakota to High streets with N. Dakota Street from E. Cherry Street to the Highway 50 bypass.

Both are arterial roadways. This length of Main Street described above is 1,600 feet while the length of Dakota Street is 2,600 feet. Parking along that stretch of Main is diagonal, with parallel parking along Dakota Street.

From January 2017 to the present, there have been 14 accidents on that stretch of Main Street and 13 of them have been parking related. During that same time period, there have been four accidents along the described stretch of North Dakota Street, with one of those accidents being parking related.

The rate of total accidents in the described section of Main Street per 100 vehicle miles is 1,021 and is 174 along the described section of North Dakota Street.

The rate of parking related accidents per 100 million miles along that section of Main Street is 949, compared to 43 along the section of North Dakota Street.

Dominguez states that “the largest difference is the fact that N. Dakota Street has parallel parking while Main Street has diagonal parking.”

He noted that the rate of accidents along the stretch of Main Street that city staff studied is 5.8 times higher for total accidents and 22 times higher for parking accidents than the stretch of North Dakota Street.

“In addition to the increase in accident rates, the traffic pattern will have to change to accommodate the diagonal parking (the center line separating the traffic flow will be shifted to the west). This means that traffic accidents may increase for a period of time until the public is used to the new traffic pattern,” Dominguez states in his memo. “Also, the fact that the requested parking is on the east side of N. Dakota Street will cause a significant number of pedestrian crossings to occur in the middle of the street to access the businesses on the west side. This will also increase the propensity for traffic accidents.”

Pizza Ranch officials had claimed that their proposal would provide 75 new parking spaces. City staff disagrees with that assessment.

“The number of additional parking on the east side of N. Dakota Street would be closer to 43 and not 75. In order to achieve the increase of 75 parking spaces, the style of parking would have to be closer to perpendicular,” Dominguez states. “On an arterial street, this is highly unusual and extremely dangerous (imagine traveling 25-mph through the arena parking lot and not knowing if there is a car backing out from a parking spot, someone coming out of a driveway, or a pedestrian crossing the street).”

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