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Downtown parking: Prepare for growing pains

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Everybody likes to complain about parking, especially in downtown Greensboro. But last week Desman Associates, a national parking consultancy with offices in seven states and the District of Columbia, issued a report enumerating Greensboro’s parking woes and some ideas to alleviate the problems.

The study found, contrary to anecdotal evidence, there are actually plenty of parking spots downtown, mostly in off-street lots and multi-level decks that were found to be about half full during peak hours.

That’s because people like to park on the street. It’s convenient and, in most places downtown, free for up to two hours.

That may soon change. Desman recommended the installation of parking meters along Elm Street and an increase in meter rates to 50 cents an hour, double the current rate, along with a decrease in prices for parking in the public decks.

The company, which according to its website also designs and implements solutions toward ‘“functionally efficient, attractive and cost effective parking facilities,’” made other suggestions that include adding two parking enforcement officers and putting some muscle behind the department: doubling the fines for parking tickets and allowing for the tow of repeat violators’ cars.

Perhaps the most shocking revelation to come from the report is a quantitative analysis of the extent of parking scofflaw debt: nearly $1.8 million, with 47 people who owe more than $1,000 each.

That’s insane.

One of the things we talk about around town is the evolution of Greensboro from a sleepy Southern city into something more ‘— not a metropolis, necessarily, but a sustainable metropolitan area with all the amenities and drawbacks of that kind of environment.

Parking tickets are a loathsome aspect of city life, yet they are an important part of the economic picture for any city, especially one that yearns for greatness.

Many of us who have lived in other cities could speak at length about the hassles of a strict and enforced parking code: heartless ticket jockeys; surmounting charges; towed cars at inopportune moments or, even worse, immobilizers, also called ‘“boots,’” that leave your vehicle helpless where it stands; even instances of parking rage.

But all of that, we hold, is part and parcel of urban life. A city, particularly a downtown area, can’t thrive without a sophisticated parking scheme that is fairly priced and uniformly enforced.

We don’t think that 50 cents an hour is an exorbitant rate for parking on the street and we believe $10 for a parking violation to be a reasonable fine. In short, we stand by the recommendations made by the Desman Associates parking consultancy even though we’re all pretty sure that, if they are implemented, sooner or later we will have to pay more out of our own pockets for the privilege of parking downtown.

And those who like to complain about the parking situation should be happy too: they may soon have even more to carp about.

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