I have had occasion to have breakfast with a bunch of old retired guys once a week. The subject of raising fees for parking came into the discussion of late. I could not help but recall the issue of downtown parking in my time as a police officer during the initial stages years ago.
To a man at the meeting, each of us made mention that they avoided going downtown because of the parking restrictions.
I can recall the first action in response to complaints from businesses in the downtown area who found fault because of people downtown who worked or shopped were tying up all the parking spaces for hours at a time. The city created restrictions limiting parking to two hours. To enforce the measure, they attached penalties and fines to recover costs of enforcement.
Officers assigned to the task of enforcement were given motorcycles and the officers patrolled and marked the tires to ensure cars were not tying up downtown parking for extended periods of time. The fines were meant for compliance rather than revenue.
As time went on, it occurred to someone that the fees were a good source of revenue. It appears that the fees and penalties have increased significantly, and the hours of enforcement have been extended, to the point of where a party going to dinner and a show will find it difficult to not be in violation of the two-hour ordinance.
With the technical advances available on smartphones, one can “feed the meter” electronically, extending their stay longer, which violates the two-hour rule.
Now the city is entertaining raising parking fees, which further encourages people to avoid downtown. How can we hope to revitalize downtown until we stop using parking for revenue?
Harry W. Patrick, Salt Lake City