Don and I met a friend downtown for lunch yesterday, and as we drove along West Franklin Street, we passed several open parking spaces, but the meters had bags over them, usually an indication of a broken meter. We didn’t realize that these spaces were part of the new parking pay stations being installed, so we kept on driving until we found a space with a traditional meter, unbagged, a few blocks away. We fed it some quarters and hustled back to the restaurant, negotiating who would have to zip back to feed the meter if our lunch ran long.
When we arrived, we saw our friend pulling into one of the bagged meter spaces. He got out and punched in the numbers at the pay station kiosk, only to be greeted with an “Out of Order” message. He opted to remain parked and see what would happen if a parking division officer came by. None did, so we were left with nothing to write about for the blog.
So we made some inquiry and learned that each pay station is able to service only the few spaces closest to it. The town had considered and rejected a wireless pay system. With a wireless system, if we had parked a few blocks from the restaurant and got close to the end of the amount of time we’d bought, we could go to the pay station closest to the restaurant and buy more time.
But that convenience was the very reason the town voted it down. The town feared it would be too convenient for UNC students who lived off-campus to park in the spaces while they were in class (as opposed to spending money in Franklin Street businesses) and buy more time from a station close to campus. If they had to run all the way down West Franklin Street to buy more time, they might decide to find a different place to park.
Other than during the lunch hour rush, though, you’d think the town would be happy to have the extra parking revenue from students, especially in light of town manager Roger Stancil admitting at the Nov. 22 meeting that parking revenue would not cover the cost of debt service, contrary to what he’d previously thought. As we walked back to our parking space after 2 p.m., ours was one of only three cars parked in that three-block stretch. Filling those spaces with students’ cars for a few hours might help the town’s bottom line. So would repairing the parking pay stations.
– Nancy Oates