Parking Meters In The Downtown Core

You may have already heard about it but if not, the Raleigh city council has approved the implementation of parking meters in certain areas of downtown. This letter from the Downtown Raleigh Alliance is a key read. To sum up the major points:

  • The first phase could come as early as June 2009.
  • ‘Pay by space’ stations would be used, accepting paper, coin, and plastic.
  • Rates would be $1 for a one hour spot and $2 for a two hour spot.
  • Enforcement time would not change; Mon-Fri, 8am-5pm.

The point is to increase turnover of on street spaces as well as making parking decks more attractive. The rates in decks will not increase and a more uniform hourly rate will eventually be implemented.

What this really means

There are ways to park downtown for free; you just have to know how to work the system. Shockingly, there are people out there that play this game, you know who you are, and the parking meters should stop this. If you want to park downtown for more then two hours you should park in a deck and take advantage of the cheaper rates. With the decks more full, the streets are less crowded and therefore parking is easier. Simple, right?

I had to think this through and I think I get it; charging for on street parking will encourage people to come downtown. I also think it will put to rest the ‘It is so hard to park downtown’ mentality. This only applies to the enforcement time of 8-5 during the week remember. Let me try and paint you a picture.

For a short trip, parking downtown right now involves crowded streets. However, these crowded streets are free so the majority of drivers circle the block and look for that gem of a space to appear. That spot may come, where then I would consider you lucky, but if not most drivers would scream in anger, ‘It is so hard to park downtown!’ Now that that free spot can not be had, driver must pay up and go to a deck a few blocks away in a furious rage (and possibly hurting driver’s image of downtown Raleigh). All that work just to meet a client for a coffee.

Let’s fast forward a couple years after the meters have been installed and driver now has to visit downtown again. The streets are not so crowded as before and a few spots are available. However, this time driver must pay two bucks for two hours. Driver now has two choices, pay the two bucks for the convenience of parking so close or save a little by circling the block and going straight to a deck. Driver decides to pay the two dollars and has a better experience then before because driver is close to the coffee shop.

That story really wasn’t that good and could have gone many ways but it does, sort of, describe a possible scenario in the future. I think the free choice versus cost choice that we have now is not helping. Unfortunately, money wins in this situation and if ALL parking cost money, people would know about that cheaper alternative. When the meters are in full effect, drivers will have two options:

  • Park on the street: Pay more, convenient location
  • Park in a deck: Pay less, walk a little

Each option can never be stressful unless its just one of those days that the entire city wants to come downtown and everything is full (which happens maybe twice a year). Businesses should enjoy the higher turnover on the spots around their block. With more turnover and more available spots, the ‘It is so hard to park downtown’ mentality should diminish and people will start visiting more often.

… theory anyway. What do you think?

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  1. I admit I’ve had my yes’s and no’s on this…call me a flip-flop I guess. But they’re beginning to make a better case for this so OK. Thankfully, it’s still just M-F, 8-5 so it won’t really affect me personally or just about anyone I know.

    I do think that $1 is a bit steep if you don’t need a full hour. (Like for example, stopping by Morning Times or Helios to pick up a coffee, or Manhattan Cafe to grab a sandwich to go.) They ought to offer a few half-hour spots for 50 cents near places like that.

  2. Isn’t it true that the rate to park in the parking deck is $1 per 1/2 hour? So that would make the metered spots on the street cheaper since they are $1 per hour. Maybe that will change in their “uniform hourly rate” that they speak of but no plans on yet.

    I for one think this is a good idea. Right now the street parking turnover is stagnant due to lax enforcement of the 2hr policy. I do feel though if you plan on charging $1 per hour on the street, the decks should be the same price. I would be inclined to park in the deck then since I know spaces would be available without having to hunt for one, and knowing that I wouldn’t have to go back and forth to the meter if I stayed longer than 2 hours.

  3. If you think there is “lax enforcement” on the two hour spots think again. I’ve gotten a ticket after being in a space 5 minutes over and even been cited for parking 2 inches too far from the curb.

    Why don’t you actually ask some of the downtown merchants how many times they’ve gotten a parking ticket while they unload their cars? They will laugh at your absurd notion of “lax enforcement” when they recount their ticket costs.

    Also, let’s congratulate the city on making downtown parkers more accessible to thieves and muggers. Instead of being able to park close to where you want to go in and simply walk, you have to walk (possibly in the dark) to some parking machine 60 feet to pay.

    This may not sound like much, but I’ve already heard some women say that they don’t feel safe walking around downtown at night, much less having to go into a dark parking deck where they might be abducted and killed or walk to a dark corner of Moore Square to pay a machine. I’m sure this sounds like a darkly cynical scenario until you talk to the family of the murdered woman who worked for Progress Energy.

    Let’s call this what it is — an additional tax on doing business downtown. The Downtown Raleigh Alliance and the City of Raleigh simply will need to pay an additional tax on doing business with a downtown Raleigh merchant. When I eat lunch at TirNaNog, that’s an additional $2 added to my sandwich cost. When I get coffee at the Raleigh Times, an additional $2 for that. If I go to pick up some copies at the printing shop, I will also need to pay $2. To visit downtown three times a day, that’s an additional $6 a day folks.

    Perhaps meters would work, but when I can go to Cameron Village (free parking) or North Hills Mall (free parking) or even Five Points (free parking), then people will avoid this tax and go elsewhere. Sorry, but I can’t afford to pay an additional $20 a week or $80 a month for parking, nor do I wish to walk (possibly in the rain) to some central ratty credit card machine that some homeless guy may have decided to use as a urinal.

    I know there are a lot of people who abuse the system, so let’s get rid of all of those pesky people who come to the downtown area several times a week to clear up parking for people who come downtown only every once in while.

    In fact, let’s get rid of all of the cars period, like they did with the Fayetteville Street mall. That worked great didn’t it? Just ask some of the merchants who went out of business until the city decided it was a dumb idea.

    This is also a dumb idea and I predict they will be ripping these meters a few years from now to “bring people back to downtown” for a new renaissance. In a down economy, it seems strange that the Downtown Raleigh Alliance is trying to keep people from visiting downtown during the day — I thought their purpose was the opposite.

  4. Raleigh Rob, in regards to picking up to-go type things at places like Manhattan Cafe, Taz’s, the shoe store over there, Sosta, and probably even Morning Times [if you’re quick] – the first 15 minutes in the brand new deck are free. And truthfully, much faster and sometimes much closer than any street space.

    Sadly there isn’t a ton of signage indicating this until you’re already in the deck.

  5. So, do we know these are not going to be regular meters, but instead those pay at one central spot and get a ticket to put on your car meters, like in City Market lot. The latter take so long, I avoid the CIty Market lot for that reason.

  6. Oops….just read the press release…..I hate those things! Why not just regular parking meters?

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