Why do downtown business owners and employees park their cars in front of their shops or their restaurants all day, plugging the meter and then complain how slow business is? Don’t these people want convenient parking for more customers? Would the Local First organization consider a pledge for downtown people to not be parking hogs? Sign me, Time Expired
It must be summer. That’s when people become fixated on Durango’s Biggest Ongoing Crisis: temporary vehicle storage, otherwise known as parking.
The indefatigable longtime local Sandra Lee summed it up long ago: “Durango doesn’t have a parking problem. It has a walking problem.”
Let’s look at some facts. Not that facts matter in this day and age.
On average year-round, 50% of Durango’s 984 parking spaces are vacant.
That comes from years of data compiled by the city and analyzed by our good friend Tim Walsworth, executive director of the Downtown Business Improvement District.
“Obviously, that’s not the case during the Snowdown Parade or at the height of summer. Still, there is parking available every single day,” Walsworth said.
“It’s just not the spots that some locals think they deserve or insist they are entitled to,” he said pointedly. “They are two or three blocks from Main Avenue.”
Durango’s downtown parking “problem” is self-inflicted, caused largely by downtown business owners and workers parking all day in prime metered spots designated for short-term stays.
“We strongly ask downtown business owners and employees to please leave the metered spaces for potential customers.”
Parking at a meter just doesn’t make sense.
Plugging costs between $5 to $10 per day ($100 to $200 per month), depending on the type of meter.
Forget to pay, and your parking fine is $25. Plus you can get multiple tickets daily.
Yet a month’s pass to a city lot is just $30.
But you’d have to walk a couple blocks. Oh, the indignity!
Why should the city discourage meter-plugging when it gets a steady stream of quarters and fines?
A parked-up downtown is a stagnant downtown, said Wade Moore, the city’s parking operations manager.
“For a proper, vibrant economic activity, a city needs to have a 10 to 15% vacancy rate at its core. Short-term parking meters keep traffic flowing and stops people from circling around the block, creating congestion, wasting time, honking, jockeying for spaces and causing pollution.”
Wade cited a study by the city of Aspen, a town with seasonal downtown parking woes similar to Durango.
The city identified 97 local merchants and workers who parked downtown all day. “That was the 10 to 15% they needed,” Wade said.
Aspen convinced most of merchants and employees to park in more appropriate areas other than downtown streets.
“Sales tax revenue went up 7 to 8% just by having more spaces for shoppers,” Wade said.
With that said, would Local First organize a responsible parking pledge? After all, Local First is all about supporting local commerce.
Action Line put the idea to Monique DiGiorgio, managing director, who appreciated the concept but put it in the parking lot.
“We put our energy into Clean Commute Week, asking people to consider not driving. That would not only free up parking but also promote healthy lifestyles,” she said.
In case you missed it, Clean Commute Week is this week.
Even if you don’t bike to work, you could celebrate Clean Commute Week by not insisting that “Local First” is your downtown parking policy.
Email questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or mail them to Action Line, The Durango Herald, 1275 Main Ave., Durango, CO 80301. You can request anonymity if you are among the 98% of Durangoans who support the use of mass transit by other people so you can have a faster commute and a better parking spot.