To the Editor:
The city of Athens is on the right track with the recent and upcoming changes to on-street and garage car parking in uptown Athens. The changes will improve the parking experience in uptown and benefit the community and businesses that depend on parking availability in uptown.
The city has followed all the best urban-planning principles in designing updates to on-street parking, including conducting a parking study prior to determining what updates to parking were needed.
While on the surface it seems to make sense for cities to provide free on-street parking, this actually only makes sense where there is little or no demand for on-street parking. In and around uptown Athens, there is generally a high enough demand such that at peak usage, there are few if any spaces available. Free parking would only exacerbate the availability problem.
How much is too much to charge for parking? It depends on demand. An important principle of parking management is correctly regulating and pricing parking, in order to promote turnover of spaces so that there are always some available. The city has right-priced parking to try and encourage regular turnover of spaces, with lower rates in the parking garage and on the edges of uptown, to push vehicle parking to the lower-demand areas. In addition, the city will be creating 15-minute time limits for some very high-demand spaces near the corners of South Court Street to further increase vehicle turnover and increase availability of parking for people wishing to make quick stops to get coffee or takeout.
While some have questioned the wisdom of the acquisition of the smart meters, they are actually a good investment, as the city is purchasing the meters over a multi-year contract using only parking revenues. The meters will enable more payment options, including a smart phone app that will not charge the 35-cent fee that the Park Mobile app charges. The smart meters will enable real-time notification of available parking spaces, saving drivers time hunting for an open space, while also providing detailed data on parking usage that will enable the city to better manage on-street parking into the future.
In addition, City Council recently approved a contract to spend parking revenue for a much-needed update to the parking garage. This project will include improved signage, opening up the stairwell to improve safety and reduce unsavory odors, upgrading the lighting and aesthetics of the garage, and providing up-to-date info on number of available spaces in the garage.
Thanks to the city planner and service-safety director for pushing for these win-win solutions to parking woes in Uptown Athens.