Thursday, April 30, 2009

Flash Pass Meters for Downtown Parking?

The Charlottesville Planning Commission is currently discussing eliminating or significantly scaling back the "Parking Exempt" district in downtown Charlottesville. The issue of parking downtown - in garages, on the street, on site, and alternatives to new parking like transit or shuttles - is a complex one and one that we will continue to discuss.

My idea, as expressed in our April Planning Commission meeting and to Rachana Dixit of the Daily Progress who interviewed me on the subject, is that the City should consider metered parking. If people have to pay to park in the Market Street and Water Street Garages, why is the desirable parking on our downtown streets free? Either make it all free, as Staunton does, or monetize the desirable spaces. My colleague Mike Osteen agrees with me and he's seen it work well with electronic flash passes.

In a great article published March of 2008 in The Hook covering the parking garage issue in our City, Dave McNair quotes George Costanza from Seinfeld on the issue of paying for parking: "My father never paid for parking, my mother, my brother, nobody," George says in one of his characteristic rants. "It's like going to a prostitute. Why should I pay when, if I apply myself, maybe I could get it for free?"

My public admission at our April meeting: I'm a two-hour shuffler. Like George, as long as I can get it for free for a little effort, I will keep shuffling.

It's up to good planning in our City to change the behavior of those like me and George.

What do you think?