June 11, 2004
Meter this!

Budget crunches sure can lead to some unorthodox solutions. How about more parking meters downtown?

Downtown would have twice as many metered parking spaces and visitors would have to feed the meters until 2 a.m. under a plan presented to a City Council committee Thursday.

The proposal by Mayor Bill White, who is seeking ways to raise city revenue in the face of a budget crunch, drew criticism from some City Council members and from downtown bar and restaurant operators who said the change would be bad for business.

Street parking is now free after 6 p.m. and the business owners said charging for it later would discourage nighttime visitors.

"You need to nuture downtown. We are not there yet," said Peter Garcia, who owns the Twelve Spot bar. "This could be catastrophic to our industry."

Many downtown businesses are just beginning to rebound from years of street construction and the building of the Main Street light rail.

As a concession, the administration has offered to exclude from the plan a 15-block area on the north end of downtown that was hit especially hard by the construction.

The plan also would retain free parking during the day on Sunday, and downtown residents would be able to purchase a decal allowing them to park in metered spaces without additional charge.

Downtown now has 4,200 metered parking spaces. David Saperstein, who heads the Mayor's Office of Mobility, said Thursday the city can double that number, still allowing for limits on curb parking because of fire hydrants, driveways and other restrictions.

Planners still haven't worked out some of the details, including locations of new meters and parking fees.

I just want to know one thing: Where are all the non-metered spaces? I've always had to pay to park somewhere downtown during business hours - one reason I'm so fond of the light rail line - but what are they looking to convert into metered spaces? I must be missing out.

I will say this: I don't mind more meters, and I don't mind a hike in meter rates. But I'd really prefer not to see meter times extended to 2 AM. I like parking for free when I go to Comets and Astros games. Alas.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on June 11, 2004 to Planes, Trains, and Automobiles | TrackBack

That's what I'm wondering -- dealing with parking for downtown sporting events. We've had no problems finding free street parking downtown in normally metered areas for Astros games, walking no more than 4-5 blocks. I don't think many people will have enough change to feed a meter for 3-5 hours, if indeed a meter can be set to allow that long a period while parked (as it should nights and weekends).

Is this being pushed by parking lot operators near the Juice Box downtown? They would be an even bigger beneficiary than the city's coffers, I think. If they had more meters and these meters couldn't be conveniently used for patrons of an Astros game, for example, there might be more of a parking crunch AND more traffic problems, primarily shortly before game time.

Between that and the loss of business that would happen for some downtown merchants, restaurants and clubs, I think expanding the time for the meters is really stupid. Houston needs to get MORE people downtown during evenings and weekends, not FEWER; this one is a stinker of an idea and the downtown restaurants and clubs are right to be mad about it.

I note here that METRO recently announced that light rail will run until after the bars close now; I wonder if this is a stick intended to get the clubbers to *use* it?

Posted by: Tim on June 11, 2004 6:31 PM