Parking Meters For An Improved Pedestrian Experience

This is the last week to vote in our October Poll about the upcoming parking meters in downtown. Cast your vote in the poll located in the sidebar of the blog.

Parking always seems to be a huge complaint for a number of people who visit downtown Raleigh. I’ve become very interested in the city’s push for new parking meters in select downtown areas. I’ve become even more interested in the reactions out of citizens and how it may change their behavior or view of downtown. Is the city trying to squeeze more money out of current visitors or is the city trying to help boost its economy? Opinions are all over the place on this so I’d like to talk about a few ideas in favor of the parking meters. However, my opinion could change based on how the city plans to use this new revenue stream and what programs they put it toward. In my opinion, I feel that the parking meter revenue, after maintaining itself, should be put back into the sidewalks of downtown Raleigh.

The most used transportation option in downtown Raleigh are the sidewalks. Tens of thousands of people walk on them every day; along Fayetteville Street and from Moore Square to Nash Square. To encourage more foot traffic, attractive sidewalks should be built and maintained in order to encourage businesses to open along the sidewalks where people are walking. If the money from the parking meters were put into creating attractive sidewalks, the business community will take notice. The money should be used to repair cracks, clean the area, plant trees, install bike racks, paint light posts, install attractive lighting, etc. Improving the pedestrian experience will keep people walking around and browsing the many shops and restaurants that downtown has to offer. Fayetteville Street is nice but I’m sure all of you can name a couple of sidewalks that desperately need repair and therefore have no shops near them.

If the city made plans to improve the sidewalks using the parking meter revenue then this strategy would be supported by the business community and the general public. Seeing the money being spent in the sidewalks would please a lot of people because it can easily be tracked. Internet commenters are notorious for accusing the city of keeping similar revenue in a vault somewhere in city hall. All kidding aside, people will support the parking meters more if results are in plain sight, not if the money is spread out between many other public services.

Also, if there were no visual improvements in downtown, then recruiting businesses to sign leases on our numerous empty retail spaces would be even more difficult. This may be the reason that downtown Raleigh lacks a decent supply of outdoor seating or really anything more then just a bunch of tables on the sidewalks. Sidewalks that are clean, maintained, and have an established flow of cash for improvements will tempt developers to invest more in their building and business owners to raise the bar, knowing that their “front lawn” is taken care of.

The end goal is to improve the pedestrian experience in downtown Raleigh. Fayetteville Street had a makeover a few years ago and still looks great. However, the metered zone is well outside the main street and improvements should occur along those sidewalks as well.

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  1. I don’t know how you expect to “solve” the problem of narrow sidewalks if you’re not willing to take back street space – which includes some of the on-street parking.

    As I’ve mentioned before, I would jump at the chance to replace parking with more useful common space – whether that be sidewalk, seating, *gasp* plants, bike racks, bus stop benches, whatever… you know, something that would benefit more than a single demographic.

    Maybe we need to start polling convention-goers and other out-of-towners. We seem to care much more about what they think than our own residents.

  2. People who complain about parking in downtown Raleigh are use to circling Walmart for an up front spot. I’ve never had a problem finding parking in Raleigh, not even during major events. It’s there, just expect to walk a block or two. It is, after all, a city downtown.

    Parking meters are a necessity, as they impose time limits for parking in premium, store front areas. However, they should be free during off-peak times for their location. For example, meters near government buildings should be free on nights/weekends.

    I agree with Jeff, the sidewalks will have to come from somewhere, and that means less streets pace. I do think we’re on track with this though. Most cities only have wide sidewalks on certain main streets, and we have the same. I welcome more.

  3. there’s a half dozen empty parking decks that are all like a buck or two! i mean i like parking in front of the place i’m going, too, but give me a break… try boston, where street parking does not exist even in residential neighborhoods, and parking garages are 20 bucks for a few hours. which is nowhere near as bad as NYC… raleigh needs more STUFF, not more parking.

    also, the reason people are wary of sitting on sidewalks is the homeless people asking for money while they eat. happened to me 3 times last week during one dinner at the mint. if people want to get serious about this, how about panhandling = 1 year ban from the city limits.

  4. In downtown Wilmington, the parking revenue is an enterprise fund. Every dollar made goes back into the program so that we can build more decks, provide better management and, cleanliness and maintenance. I like your idea of putting the money back in sidewalks.

    In Vancouver, they just made over Granville Street, and one thing they implemented were “flex parking spaces.” The concept is this, the sidewalk finish is carried out into the parking stall. At a certain time of day/night, bollards are installed to prevent parking, thereby creating a larger sidewalk.

    Thanks for keeping the discussion pedestrian friendly, city’s are built for people, not automobiles.

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