How else to explain expanding the traditional definition of “downtown” as being that area from East First Street and the river flanking blocks 1 through 6 of Broad Street for purposes of two-hour free parking enforcement before being slapped with a government-issued ticket? It will now include “strict enforcement” of the existing two-hour limit on East Fourth Avenue between East First and East Second streets. The parking patrols with their newfangled electronic monitoring tools that read tag numbers instead of, as in the past, marking tires with chalk, will now prowl this bit of turf as well.
As not all residents (and certainly very few visitors) know those two free hours are cumulative — not involving some single space. Move your car after an hour to another downtown spot and you have an hour left before the ticket is written.
The explanation given for the expansion of ticket-patrol range: Complaints from those trying to drop off children at First Baptist Church’s day care and folks working in the soup kitchen at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church that they can’t find a place to park. Hence, a key chunk of what some have long dubbed “church row” will now have the uniformed minions of man’s law strike down offenders instead of relying on the Good Lord to bother the conscience of those who overstay their welcome in the vicinity of a church.
WHAT a terrible problem to have — more people want to go downtown than the broadest street to be found anywhere (that is why it is called Broad) can accommodate. Just as disturbing, the church folks are so heavily engaged in the doing of good deeds that citizens look to them on other than Sundays (when downtown parking is free for 24 hours). Horrors! Elsewhere in Georgia and around the nation others are praying for such success visiting the centers of their cities.
One hopes most readers understand a bit of fun is being utilized here, but in reality there’s a serious local issue at work that has been addressed often in this space and even longer by city officials, all the way back to worries about who cleans up the horse poop from the merchant wagons and consumer buggies to keeping/taking out the parking meters to the present day of free two-hour spaces plus putting up parking decks.
As most familiar with downtown’s dynamics know, the present-day “parking problem” is rooted in two factors: Many, many people work in the downtown for 40 or more hours a week while having bedrooms elsewhere. They need places to park their vehicles that few employers can provide in an area packed wall-to-wall with enterprise spaces. The existing free spaces are heavily reserved for customers/clients many of whom appear to have lost the ability to use their legs and insist on parking somewhere from 5 to 50 feet from the front door of where they wish to go.
Indeed, several parking studies by paid experts have discerned there are plenty of spots to leave cars in the downtown area — they’re just not enough located where visitors with their bounce-around lives want to be at a particular moment in time.
FRANKLY, THERE is a double-barreled problem involved. Largely missed is the political one: Pardon, but why is government working so hard to make sure that public property (those spaces are on people-built streets) remains available for church activities? And by possibly fining non-believers (or those of other faiths) for not bowing to religious priorities to boot! If churches in the downtown need more parking then why don’t they just buy up more adjoining private property and tear it down to make the room? They sure have in the past!
Come to think of it, that free all-day Sunday parking on Broad when some establishments serve family after-services meals ... is that favoritism too?
Of more concern is the practical problem and how to address it. The city sure has tried in the past, constantly; it just hasn’t hit on an answer that works.
This two-hour free limitation has got some real nasty gotchas in it, particularly with the new high-tech innovations. Many business owners believe it works to discourage visitors. It probably does.
Consider this regarding those two hours ... anywhere downtown ... between the hours of 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday. First, how many downtown enterprises ... or even government offices ... are open at 8 a.m.? Second, if you want to have lunch with friends downtown and then get a haircut or visit a beauty salon afterwards, what are the chances of doing so within two hours?
And, bad as this stopwatch factor is at present, what if downtown — as it currently is pushing to do — actually gets more and varied retailers? Come downtown and do your Christmas shopping ... you’ve got two hours to get it done before the Grinch writes you a ticket.
THE BUSINESS owners are right to complain. Of course, they’re trying to generate profits (and taxes), not fine tune government regulations.
And those parking tickets — wow! No wonder some believe Rome is using them as a revenue generator. Just in case the reader has escaped getting one, they are a warning on first offense and then $10 for the second, $20 for the third ... up to $80 for the fifth and subsequent violations. Thanks to those computers, they know if your car has ever been downtown before. Not just that day — ever!
If such tickets are not paid after five business days, by the way, they double. Gulp! It could cost as much as $160 to dawdle over lunch and then dawdle in paying a ticket? Reserved monthly parking spaces in the Third Avenue deck are only $45 a month!
Additionally, the city surely knows where the heaviest consumer/customer activity takes place. Why not two-hour limits there and say, four-hour limits in those blocks on and adjoining Broad where there is much less reason to go? Encouraging walking is a good thing ... or do we need to replace all the downtown gurus with medical doctors?
There are no magic, instant solutions to parking in the downtown. It is caused by success. However, applying more common sense to the problem would doubtless lead to more business, more success ... and new parking problems.
THAT’S A GOOD perpetual problem for a community to have ... once the sillier (and most punitive) aspects are removed.