Go Away, Cars, You Bother Me
Now, I would understand if the city wanted to make parking more difficult. After all, that might encourage people to use buses and bikes (not to mention other shopping areas.)
And I would understand if the city wanted to make parking easier. After all, it's hard enough for the downtown area to compete with the exciting new Twenty Ninth Street shopping experience.
But this change is just dumb, with no rational explanation I can find. The city is exchanging one minor parking inconvenience (finding change for the meter) for another minor parking inconvenience (finding a nearby kiosk, paying and getting your parking permit, going back to your car, and putting the parking permit on your windshield.) Not to mention all the extra litter from all these used parking permits. And we will be spending millions for the privilege.
I don't like to rant without having all the facts, so I've gone back through all the information available on the city website. I've gone through the city council minutes. I've reviewed the presentation made to the council by city staff. But nowhere I could find was this simple piece of information, one that seems key to making a decision like this: How many parking meters are being replaced by each individual kiosk? In other words, how far will people have to walk from their cars to find a kiosk at which to pay? If there is one kiosk for every two meters, that doesn't seem so bad. But if there is one kiosk on each block people will grumble and just add one more reason to shop elsewhere.
I've also discovered that other cities that have installed similar parking systems have coincidentally found that it is surprisingly easy to increase parking rates, as well as extend the areas in which payment is required. So, maybe there really is a reason why this was approved so quickly.
Assuming we all agree that paying for parking in the downtown area is appropriate, here is my perfect parking experience: I pull into an empty parking spot. I press a button, maybe swipe my credit card. Then I go on my way. While I'm gone the charges add up, $0.25 every 12 minutes. When I'm done shopping, I drive away, and the accumulated charge gets processed. No guessing on my part how long I'm going to be. Just payment for time used. If I happen to stay out longer than three hours, just put the $25 parking ticket/overtime fee on my card, and just keep ticking away.
Convenient parking that people don't have to worry about, that would be worth the money the city is spending.
Oh, well, no big deal. I'll just ride my bike downtown and lock it for free to a parking meter.
Oops, maybe not.