In many instances, I’ve been impressed with some of the parking-related adjustments that have come out of City Hall lately.
The scooter & motorcycle parking initiative that was rolled out last year was done in a swift and effective manner to provide not only additional parking revenue for the city, but also to provide a progressive service to two-wheeler riders that has actually gotten a bit of national attention.
The city has also been testing a variety of new “smart” meters that accept credit cards, are solar powered, and have wi-fi functionality. Nice.
And just two months ago, there was an announcement that the city would be lifting rush hour parking restrictions in very specific key areas throughout Downtown to allow parking to remain in front of businesses where parking can be very difficult to find. Again, a win for both parking revenue, as well as both businesses and customers.
But today I’m disappointed. Several folks at City Hall have decided that without any public input there will be a 50% rate hike to all parking meters across the board throughout the city, which includes the Downtown, German Village, and Short North areas. Of the $4.6 million in revenue this is expected to raise, $1.4 million of it will be going towards bonds to fund the development of the new Convention Center Hotel scheduled to open in 2012.
Additionally, some areas (mainly the Short North) will have meter enforcement times expanded from 6pm to 9pm, and additional 1,800 meters are to be added to the current 4,200 throughout the city. I would have to imagine that these new meters may wind up in new areas on the near east and near west sides as well as new areas around the Ohio State University and perhaps even up into Clintonville.
Don’t get me wrong… I think that meter rates in certain areas could stand to be slightly higher, and enforcement hours in certain spots are due for an update. The urban landscape has changed quite a bit in the past 10 years, and parking (like everything) should evolve to fit the needs of the public. Enforcing meter parking near open businesses means that parking spots are regularly being turned over, making it easier for new customers to park close to their destinations.
The two biggest things that concern me is the fact that this plan was put together behind closed doors without any form of public input, and that the changes being made are wide and sweeping rather than being done with precision and care. Different streets have different needs. Park Street next to the North Market is a completely different animal than Town Street near the Topiary Park. Why should they be looked at through the same lens?
I think it’s also a bit concerning about how some of this information is being pushed out to the public. I’ve heard several city officials state that current meter rates have been untouched in over 10 years, which is not at all true. Perhaps they see a difference between “raising the rates” and “lowering the time given per quarter” but to anyone else, it’s the same thing.
We’re also being promised the rollout of the aforementioned “smart” meter heads throughout the city, which I do think would be a great technological upgrade. Of course, this is all being promised as something that will happen down the road, and is taking a back seat to the $1.4 Million allocated to bonds to pay for the new Convention Center Hotel. I think the new hotel is a great development, but this funding scenario is a bit ridiculous. This new hotel is going to benefit the entire Central Ohio region, and yet only people who rely on parking Downtown are being forced to chip in to pay for it.
The redevelopment of Downtown as a whole has seen a lot of progress over the past 10 years, much of which is due to city policies that make living, working, and hanging out Downtown a more attractive option than it was before. I’m afraid that increasing the inconvenience by such a drastic amount is going to have an overall negative impact on the area. Instead of heading to the Short North to shop, people are going to go to Easton where parking is free. Instead of going Downtown to dine, people are going to go to Polaris where parking is free. Instead of opening a new business Downtown, entrepreneurs are going to establish themselves in pretty much any other part of the city where their customers and clients can park for free.
Personally, this isn’t going to stop me from going Downtown, and I really do hope that it won’t stop too many others. I’ve always said that both driving and parking will need to become more inconvenient throughout Central Ohio before mass transit development becomes an attractive option for the general public. I just think that it’s a bit ridiculous to force that inconvenience upon the one area in town that needs it the least while the rest of the city remains unchanged and unchallenged. As someone who rarely deals with cash and pocket change anymore, I probably won’t be able to park at meters except on very rare occasions. If we were getting the credit-card accepting meters up front this would not be an issue. Instead, I’ll be giving more of my transit budget to COTA, as I can ride the bus easily without fishing for silver change from the couch cushions before leaving the house. If any good is going to come from this, I imagine it will be in the form of increased bus ridership and bike ridership.
Again… very disappointed in all of this.