Monday, August 16, 2010

Free Parking

At first, I didn't think it was a bad idea-- parking meters on Mattes Ave. and River St. in Scranton.  Workers at General Dynamics and other downtown businesses were using the spaces here, for free, for years.  It didn't seem fair.  People parking here got a free ride, while others were forced to swallow regular fee increases, courtesy of the Scranton Parking Authority.  It could be reasoned that if the city had more meters, everyone would pay less.

I forgot that this is Scranton.  My bad.

I was told a long time ago that "a little bit of something is better than a lot of nothing."  The city started enforcing the meters one week ago.  Above, River St. on Friday morning,  is what you have-- a lot of nothing.  The people who used to park here have gone elsewhere-- into the residential neighborhoods, and that has the people there steamed.  They now have to fight for spaces in front of their own homes and apartments.

The issue goes deeper than parking.  I used to work in a building on Lackawana Avenue.  The owner of my business provided spaces in a lot on South Washington Avenue.  It was a nice little perk.  It made you feel valued as an employee.  A new owner came in, and free parking was out.  So was the agreement with a company to keep a couple stocked medicine cabinets in the office.  If they weren't going to provide Band Aids, rubbing alcohol, and Tylenol, sure as heck they weren't going to pay for employee parking.  I should go back and check my old pay stubs to see if there was a deduction for using the company's toilet paper.  Thankfully, air to breathe was free.

There has to be room for some rational thought here.  If you run General Dynamics or one of the other downtown businesses, throw your workers a bone, if you can afford it.  Give them a hand with parking.

City officials have to drop the rates at these meters and the others around the city.  Rememeber when Jim McNulty was mayor?  No meters.  You got two hours of free parking.  The plan looked good on paper.  It was meant to encourage people to shop downtown.  Unfortunately, a lot of downtown workers sucked up the spaces, and the city got into a complicated money crunch-- one it still faces.  The meters eventually returned.

Drop the fees at the garages.  Promote long term parking in the garages to keep the metered spaces available for shoppers and people doing business in the city.  Yes, I realize that parking garage construction and maintenance is expensive.  The money has to come from somewhere.

Shoppers have a lot of choices these days.  Free parking is a factor, although, admittedly, it hasn't helped the Mall at Steamtown a lot.  Businesses have their choice of locations.  Make it easy on employees and customers.  Have a place for them to park.  The latest meter debacle has the smell of an anti business climate, and no one can afford that.