Atypical diagonal parking idea may lead to traffic study

Medford city officials may initiate a traffic study if they choose to continue pursuing the idea of back-in, head-out diagonal parking spaces on East Main Street.

The Medford Parking Commission is preparing to present the novel plan to the City Council, suggesting the conversion of parallel parking along the north side of East Main Street to diagonal parking, but with a twist.

Instead of heading nose-first into a space, motorists would pull past the slots and then back in at an angle. That's intended to provide better visibility for drivers by allowing them to pull out of the parking spots moving forward, rather than backing out into traffic that they sometimes cannot see.

"It's definitely a change of driving habits," said Mark Millner, chairman of the Medford Parking Commission.

The Parking Commission has prepared a rough design showing how the parking spaces would be configured on Main Street.

The preliminary drawing shows a potential gain of one or two parking spaces in each of the two blocks from Riverside to Central avenues.

East Main would be reduced from three travel lanes to two to accommodate the diagonal parking and to add a bike lane. Reducing the number of lanes would trigger the need for a traffic study, requiring an expense to hire an engineer.

Millner said he's hopeful that if the City Council approves the idea, it can get a trial run this fall.

He said many residents have expressed skepticism over reverse diagonal parking, but said once he explains the advantages, they warm up to it.

Beyond the difficulties many drivers have with parallel parking, it also requires them to open their doors into oncoming traffic — a situation overcome by diagonal parking, Millner said.

For shoppers, having the trunk facing the sidewalk would make it easier to transfer items in and out, Millner said.

If the car is facing outward, it would be easier for motorists to ease out of the parking space because they will be better able to see past adjacent parked cars to spot approaching traffic.

The idea is new to Medford, but has been tried in other cities. Both Eugene and Salem have reverse diagonal parking spaces in their downtowns.

Some of the potential disadvantages include motorists' unease with reversing into a diagonal parking space, the potential for impeding traffic and the reduction in the number of lanes of travel on East Main from three to two.

With the reduction of a travel lane, the city could add a bike lane on the north side of East Main, from Riverside to Oakdale Avenue, Millner said. The bike lane would be between the right-hand travel lane and the diagonal parking spots.

The diagonal parking likely would be installed only between Riverside and the railroad tracks, though that hasn't been decided yet, Millner said.

Reducing the number of travel lanes to two is appealing in downtown Medford, he said, because it also would slow traffic, making it safer for pedestrians trying to cross busy East Main.

Dan Ebert, a parking commission member, said he's convinced reverse diagonal parking is safer than parallel parking.

"I'm all for it," he said.

Ebert said the main question for him is cost. He said he's hopeful that the expense of new striping on East Main isn't prohibitive.

The biggest advantage, Ebert said, in reverse diagonal parking is that it provides more visibility as drivers pull out of their spaces into oncoming traffic.

A former UPS driver, Ebert said he was trained to avoid backing up as much as possible. However, for parking spaces, drivers were encouraged to back in for safety reasons, Ebert said.

He said it's difficult to gauge how the idea would be received by the public or the City Council.

"Like most things, it's a matter of how loud the naysayers are," he said.

Councilor Eli Matthews said he was in Salem recently and observed that reverse diagonal parking worked well on side streets.

Matthews said he would be heading back to Salem next week and will try his hand at backing into a diagonal parking space.

"I'm concerned if it will function well on busy East Main," he said. "It hasn't solidified in my mind if I like it or not."

Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476, or email

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