400-Word (or less) Commentary: Put brakes on parking plan to detour PR nightmare; offer two hours of free parking before the meter starts.

400-Word (or less) Commentary: Put brakes on parking plan to detour PR nightmare; offer two hours of free parking before the meter starts.

A busy evening on Broad Street. File photo.

 

They’ve successfully lowered the speed limit on Broad Street in downtown Rome. Now we urge the city of Rome to put the latest paid parking plan in park as some fixes are needed.

Tuesday’s vote by the Downtown Development Authority was a surprise to many (we assume our normal agenda package got caught in someone’s spam file); it ended with a 4-2 vote in favor with the next stop the Rome City Commission.

We agree relief parking is needed but this rush job is careless — and a PR nightmare.

The immediate solution is the purchase of a license plate reader for all of $75,000 that will increase current revenue dramatically, even using the current two-hour parking ordinance. We hear the parking crew can make the rounds every 20 minutes with one of these readers.

But here’s the real answer. ¬†Allow two hours of free parking weekdays and Saturdays, from 10 a.m. until 8 p.m. The current proposal gives you 60 minutes to shop, wine, dine, get your hair done, pay a bill, get a loan, etc. (That’s an improvement over the original proposal of 15 minutes).

But take it one step further: Offer two hours of free parking and then, in the third hour, raise the rate to $3 per hour and for the fourth and following hours, $5 per each 60 minutes. That will chase some of the downtown employees who take customers’ spots.

How this helps: Downtown shoppers and diners still have the two hours they currently enjoy; nothing has been taken away (the free parking in the decks means little to them). If customers want to stay longer, they have to pay — or else move to the parking decks. If they leave in under two hours,¬†that’s fine, too, as a spot opens for another customer.

The two-hours-free concept can be spun to appease all sides. Customers will embrace it. Most merchants will welcome it. The city gets the new revenue source for the enterprise parking fund that, in turn, would offset and augment parking costs and a potential new deck.

One hundred and 20 minutes of free downtown street side parking is a draw for Broad Street and surrounding neighborhoods. Leave it as is and make the long-term folks the ones who have to pay.

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