On Both Sides of the Street
The days of free Downtown parking are over
By Amy Dalness
The changes came suddenly. White notices atop the familiar one-hour parking signs gave Downtown parkers and patrons insight into what was to come. Letters were passed out to local businesses alerting them of the change: No more free parking Downtown along Central.
It's not a major modification for most Albuquerqueans—parking meters and paid parking aren't rare in this city. But the change did come as a shock to Roy Sumner Johnson, owner and director of the Sumner & Dene Creations in Art, a Downtown business.
Johnson first heard about the new parking meters in a letter posted on his door on June 22, just nine days before the implementation date. He says while he understands the need to keep people from abusing the free parking, he's frustrated with the fact that the city never gave him a chance to comment or debate the proposal of putting in parking meters. “I wish there was something we were debating,” he says.
Johnson says he's worried the parking meters will hinder the already struggling retail economy of Downtown. “I'm not trying to be condescending to the city, but is this really going to solve the problem?” he says. “They're putting in parking meters on streets that are empty.”
As of July 1, patrons wishing to park along the street must pay at one of 14 parking meters located on each block on both sides of the street. After paying with cash, coins or credit card, they will receive a ticket to place on the dashboard of their car to prove time paid. Mark Motsko, public information officer for the Department of Municipal Development, says the meters are designed to be convenient for Downtown patrons and were installed to encourage parking spaces to become available more frequently. He says the meters were installed at the request of the Downtown Action Team (DAT), an organization dedicated to the development and growth of downtown Albuquerque, and business owners.
When asked about the parking meter situation Downtown, City Councilor Issac Benton said he didn't know enough about the issue to comment because he only learned about the parking meters within the last week of June.
Luisa Casso, president of DAT, says the new parking meters came out of a joint task force meeting with DAT, the parking division and city planners nearly two years ago. The issue of parking came up at the meeting and it was decided that meters needed to be installed along Central to encourage parking turnover and keep Downtown employees from taking advantage of the spaces.
“It will be good for the retail environment down the road,” she says. The type of meters being used gives the city the option to implement a parking validation or token program to give free parking to Downtown patrons, she says.
Casso says she is not sure when the decision was made by the city to finally bring in the parking meters, but DAT still supports the meters even two years after the initial discussion. She says DAT represents business Downtown and realizes that not every business is going to agree with the plan. “This evolution that's happening Downtown, it is change. Change is not always easy for people to accept,” she says.
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