Pursue paid parking
Once stalled, the process of dealing with downtown Glenwood Springs parking is now poised to move ahead in overdrive.
City Council approval of tax increment financing for the Downtown Development Authority paves the way for possible creation of a downtown parking structure to ease congestion.
And now, council has provided direction for a downtown parking plan.
While the DDA asked for up to $50,000 for a consultant to carry out the work, council wisely decided, particularly in light of lagging sales tax revenues, that in-house city staff should do the work.
There is no lack of other communities for staff to consult on successes and failures in dealing with parking.
As work gets under way on a plan, a primary goal should be pursuing the concept of paid parking.
Paid parking can be a big benefit for downtown. At a time when the city is looking for ways to get people out of their cars and into alternative forms of transportation, paid parking would provide one more incentive for leaving the keys behind.
At the same time, it would produce extra revenue to go toward parking solutions, including some kind of parking structure.
In addition, it would better fund enforcement so motorists would not hog parking spaces, or pay for the privilege of doing so. This would benefit merchants by opening up spaces for others wishing to shop, dine or do business downtown.
For a while, it would be necessary to accommodate downtown business owners and employees who drive to work. But once a parking structure is built, this exemption could be lifted and more streetside parking would be available for visitors’ use.
In the meantime, we would hope that some of these downtown workers would consider using buses, bikes, carpooling and other alternative commuting forms that reduce or do away with the need for parking. As part of its transit demand management program, the city and employers should further encourage such transportation alternatives. Paid parking exemptions for carpoolers and tax breaks for employers that institute carpooling and bus fare reimbursement programs would work well.
Residents of downtown neighborhoods worry that paid parking in nearby commercial areas would prompt motorists to seek free parking on their streets. This can be dealt with by issuing residential parking permits to downtown residents, and using paid parking proceeds to enforce parking rules in those neighborhoods. To allow for service vehicles, visitors and the like, two-hour parking could still be permitted in residential areas, and a guest parking permit could be provided for each household.
By further helping to fund a parking structure, paid parking could reduce overflow parking already seen in downtown neighborhoods.
One considerable objection to paid downtown parking remains: Free parking can be found elsewhere, at retail and restaurant locations that compete with downtown businesses. This concern is exacerbated by the threat to downtown posed by Glenwood Meadows retail plans.
It can be argued that downtown requires a different approach, because parking is such a problem there. But a citywide paid parking program for all retail locations is possible, legal and practical. It would be worth exploring, as it would be more fair to downtown businesses. At the same time, it would generate even more money to address parking needs and promote the non-vehicle alternatives the city seeks.
Yes, such an approach would then put city retailers as a whole at a competitive disadvantage compared to those in other area communities.
But citywide commercial district paid parking would be a bold initiative that would underscore Glenwood’s commitment to promote automotive alternatives and pay for an automotive impact – the need for parking space – by charging those who drive cars.
– Dennis Webb, News Editor
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