Apr
07

Downtown Parking Fees On the Way?

Earlier this week news outlets reported that the City of Raleigh is going to seek more parking revenues as a way to cover a larger than anticipated revenue shortfall for The City. Not only will Raleigh go after unpaid parking fines, but will also consider selling ad space in parking decks and ending the practice of free parking during nights and weekends.

"The city’s not making enough off parking and it’s obvious people don’t like paying for tickets. That’s the issue," said City Council member Mary Ann Baldwin.

During the last decade and a half downtown Raleigh has undergone an enormous resurgence that went along with a $2 billion investment from the private and public sectors. In the late 90’s we started to see Raleigh most interesting new restaurants appearing in downtown instead of in the suburbs. Popular bars in the suburbs began to fade as a bustling nightlife emerged in downtown Raleigh. In fact, almost every single interesting restaurant to open in the last 10 years has been in downtown Raleigh.

Apparently the City of Raleigh wants to ignore the role of free parking in that renaissance. The introduction of nighttime parking fees is a huge deterrent for restaurant patrons who have an alternative. If this becomes the city’s policy, expect a renaissance of its own in North Raleigh. Downtown parking fees would be a huge boon to restaurateurs in the suburbs.

Increased parking revenues from downtown lots also would be a big boon to McLaurin Parking Company, the company that operates these parking structures. You may also know that company as…the inlaws of Mayor, Charles Meeker.

Nothing lasts forever. Hillsborough Street’s nightlife scene in the 70’s rivaled Chapel Hill’s Franklin Street. North Raleigh saw a ton of great restaurants open in the 80’s. The popularity of downtown in the last 15 years is a delicate thing. If the City of Raleigh wants that momentum to continue, it must proceed with extreme caution. As it is, downtown is not perceived as convenient to where people chose to live, it isn’t perceived as an easy place to park, and it’s wave is nearing the point where we’ve typically seen nightlife/entertainment cycles end in Raleigh’s history.

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  • JeffS Said:

    Why is it that we mandate parking in the suburbs (often more than is needed), the cost of which is born by the businesses? Yet downtown, we shift the cost to the consumer and/or taxpayer?

    I’m not really in favor of subsidizing automobile users in any way, but am left with conflicting feelings on the issue. The shift of cost onto the consumer certainly feels unfair to downtown businesses, not because of the cost necessarily, but because they were allowed to build their business plan around free parking.

  • Dana Said:

    Good points, Jeff. Others have argued that the roads out to those suburban shopping centers where parking funds are provided by the businesses rivals the public outlay for downtown decks (and city plazas, etc). That’s hard to quantify, though, since the roads serve a complex function while decks serve a relatively simple function.

    Also there are some who think that punitive measures against car drivers will result in a successful mass transit system. This is positively flawed, as it ignores the consumers numerous options, including living in a comparable city that offers an easier lifestyle.

    There are some who feel that parking should be construed as a premium experience and that we should has mass transit just because bigger cities have it. If we don’t want to become Atlanta, Houston, DC, etc, then why follow their model to a T? What we need is a smarter approach to easy living, not a heavy-handed method that hasn’t worked in other places. I honestly feel that the era of the car as we know it won’t last much longer. Technology thrives in all industry, yet but for a few safety improvements, we are still dealing with almost the same beast that Ford introduced 103 years ago. Hardly anything has progressed slower than automotive technology, yet here we are with the same old same old…and consumers LOVE the experience. Good suburban living is what brings people here, and we want to make it the best experience in the country for decades to come. People aren’t coming here to be converted to a way of life they weren’t seeking, and they sure don’t approve of the government putting a gun to their heads and MAKING them buy a way of life they weren’t seeking.

  • Leo Said:

    Definitely good thoughts. I think if you try and force people into mass transit, you will naturally get resistance, even more if you make it seem like driving is a bad thing to do.

    I agree people are moving here because of the great suburbs but the city can offer more in terms of urban areas as well. That is what makes a city more competitive and diverse. I believe in giving people different options in lifestyle and the way they move around their city.

    As far as the parking in downtown goes, I think the theory, keyword theory, is that you pay for what you use giving you choice. In a suburban shopping center, the cost of that land for parking is wrapped up back into the prices you pay inside. So whether you walk or drive, you are paying for that cost anyway. In an urban area, the price of goods don’t include the price for providing parking from the business. If you walked or rode a bike to that business, you don’t have to pay for parking but if you drive, you do.

    Again in theory, that should keep prices lower in urban areas but there are many other factors that don’t make the prices appear that way. I feel this is the choice you have in an urban area where you don’t in a suburban shopping center.

  • Subway Scoundrel Said:

    I like the free parking but realize that many times, only Raleigh had it DT. Go to other cities (Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Nashville, PHX/Scottdale, etc, you pay. Parking is not free if you are DT and it is not free at Sutton Square or Quail Corners.

    But not sure decks staying open late to take more money is the ideal situation for DT right now.

  • Dana Said:

    Yes, but I doubt that Quail Corners is paying $40,000 per space, too.

  • Unique1 Said:

    Unrelated news. Ran across this at the NBC17 site…Snoop @ The Walt!

    http://music.mync.com/2011/04/snoop-dogg-coming-to-raleigh-amphitheater-unc-students-primed-to-storm-downtown/

  • Dana Said:

    Yes, Snoop Dog is coming to The Walt, BUT:

    1) It is a UNC student event, so there are no public tickets available and

    2) Let’s see how many drunk drivers we can get on I-40W later that night.

  • orulz Said:

    I personally don’t care if I have to pay $2 or $5 or whatever to park downtown at night or on the weekend. The city’s parking services should absolutely be paying its own bills by now. If they can turn a profit, and then dedicate the profits towards other downtown improvements then that’s even better. Obvously they shouldn’t gouge on the cost, but a couple of bucks for a night on the town is perfectly reasonable.

  • OTB & lovin' it! Said:

    When entrepreneurs discussed opening businesses on the new Fayetteville Street Mall, the advantages included, but were not limited to free parking & events, including Raleigh Wide Open. Mayor Meeker & the City Council are playing shell games with merchants & tax payers. Parking should be free on nights, weekends & holidays to encourage people to drive by 50+ restaurants & come into downtown, and not stay in NoRal, Cary/Apex, Garner,etc. After spending $2 million+ on this section of downtown, let’s support it until it is very successful & a true destination. At this point, it is neither.
    Now, let’s talk about nepotism…..Downtown is beginning to stink & it’s not restaurant garbage.

  • ct Said:

    Will be interesting to see if the downtown business community opposes charging for night and weekend parking. One would think they would. Will it discourage trips from NoRal into downtown? Of course. If the City can’t balance its budget, it should cut expenses.

  • G Said:

    If paying a couple bucks to park discourages someone to come downtown then they weren’t contributing much anyway. There is plenty of free parking around downtown as well – you just have to be willing to walk more than a block to your destination. It seems most people here are too lazy to do that anyway.

  • Dana Said:

    While I understand your point (that there would still be plenty of free parking), there still is a psychological advantage when, ceteris paribus, one can see their destination when they park. Throw in the hassle of having do deal with an uncertain amount of cash, and you have a distinct advantage for a business that doesn’t charge for parking vs. one that does.

    You may want to throw around words like “lazy”, but remember that there are, what, 2,000 people living in downtown Raleigh? According to the most recent census, Raleigh proper has 404,000 people, so that means that 0.5% of the population lives downtown. These businesses could not have thrived in the last decade on just 2,000 potential customers. They’ve done it on thanks to attracting portions of the remaining 99.5% of the area population. The last thing they need is a barrier to entry added to the distance and blind-destination variables they currently face.

    People move here because it is easy, efficient living. Growing our urban areas in the classic sense is a recipe for adding 200,000 more suburbians for every 1,000 that live downtown. If you want us to become Atlanta, go ahead and push the same old buttons every other city in America keeps pushing.

  • G Said:

    I’m moving away because of the mind frame here. I cannot take it anymore. Raleigh has an identity crisis. It cannot decide if it wants to be a city or be suburban. People complain about everything here when it comes to spending a dollar here or there. Raleigh is on it’s way to becoming Atlanta. Suburban sprawl hell with terrible public transportation.

  • Dana Said:

    Where are you going? D.C.? Go 5+ miles away from the Washington monument and all you see is suburgan sprawl hell, but in this case it’s in the shadows of many people’s model for public transportation. (ie rail does absolutely nothing to curb sprawl)

    Growth in our future is not a binomial prospect. You are saying that we can only either have suburban sprawl OR be like some other “big city” (name one that doesn’t have 10’s of miles of suburban sprawl surrounding it). The truth is that we can be different. We CAN handle growth well WHILE making it easy and efficient to live here. The problem is our leaders are locked into one VERY expensive paradigm that really isn’t working in other cities either. It’s not a resistance to spending in general, it’s the WAY the spending is headed.

  • G Said:

    I would never live in DC. I barely enjoy visiting DC. I am moving to Seattle.

  • Dana Said:

    Isn’t it nice to live where you _want_ to. 😉 Good luck.

  • G Said:

    Thanks. I look forward to it. One month left in Raleigh! I had some more comments to add, but I realized I was getting completely off topic (I was going to get to public transit). One thing that I think would benefit all of Raleigh – especially if parking fees were introduced on nights and weekends – is the ridership of the different bus routes we do have. In turn, Raleigh would (hopefully) increase the frequency of service for bus routes which would benefit all citizens, but especially those who cannot afford or do not wish to own a car.

  • eric Said:

    I don’t get the complaints. Is there a major North American city with an inviting downtown that has free public parking? Having lived in San Francisco and Seattle, where parking downtown could easily run $5/hr or $30+ for an evening, a few bucks in Raleigh is hardly worth crying about.

  • K Said:

    Just wanted to correct an inaccuracy in your original post. I’m not sure where you got your information, but the mayor’s wife is NOT related to the McLaurin family that owns McLaurin Parking–they just have the same last name.

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