Op Ed: Paid Parking Does Not Have To Be All Or Nothing

Matthew Clements - Candidate for Carrboro Alderman

Carrboro’s Mayor and Board of Aldermen have opened up a discussion of implementing paid parking in the town. Parking availability has long been a contentious point in regional politics. Chapel Hill has invested in modern parking meters, a paid parking app, and stringent enforcement of public parking.

Carrboro, however, has avoided instituting paid parking and offers municipal lots and on street parking for visitors. However, the underlying issue of private parking lots engaging in restrictive or predatory parking enforcement is prevalent in downtown Carrboro. 

For instance, UNC has a lot behind the Armadillo Grill that is gated and restricted after business hours. Other private lots employ predatory towing practices instead of welcoming visitors to Carrboro. The town council needs to bring the community together to ensure there is a discussion on how to create a win-win proposition where property owners are able to work together for a common goal - the good of the town and it’s residents and visitors.

With the upcoming 203 Project that will displace a significant portion of the town’s centrally located parking Carrboro is smartly planning for the future and may decide to put a paid parking garage into the equation. Paid parking options are a voluntary choice by consumers to use and or limit the town’s resources.

Some argue that paid parking is an all or nothing proposition “We’re nervous about creating any kind of structured parking, if we go that far, which would be paid parking, without then really having to come up with a mechanism for our other lots,” says Carrboro Mayor Lydia Lavelle. “Because then everyone will just park in the free lots.”

Perhaps a better alternative is to have a public/private initiative to allow local businesses to give vouchers to their customers for the new parking lot while retaining free parking in the remainder of the town. This option could keep enforcement costs to a minimum while providing a service to town business customers.

There are positive and negative repercussions of each path that Carrboro can take. The town owned real estate could be generating revenues for the town if the paid parking plan is frugal and self funding. Spending more money chasing revenues while driving customers into other more convenient options outside of Carrboro is unacceptable.

Out of town visitors to Carrboro have told me they appreciate the options of free parking with minimal hassles in our town and patronize our restaurants and business more frequently than Chapel Hill or downtown Durham because of the ease and affordability of parking. The goodwill of visitors outside of our community should not be discounted.

Our town government should not pick and choose winners and losers in any project. Investing in a communal resource that could pay a dividend for the taxpayers of Carrboro residential and business owners equally. 

Matthew Clements

UNC Class of 1995 

 


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