The Republic Masthead

Talk about downtown meters draws overreactions


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IN Columbus there would seem to be at least one addition to Ben Franklin’s famous quote, “Nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.”

The local addendum would be complaints about downtown parking.

An untabulated number of studies have been conducted in this and the previous century to provide answers for people who find it hard to park within easy walking distance of their destinations. Out of those studies have come proposals that have produced an even greater number of complaints about the recommendations.

The most recent study, which is still in its initial phase, has already drawn fire, due in part to the mention of a dreaded word to many local motorists and consumers — meters.

Data still are being collected by the Nelson/Nygaard consulting firm of Boston, but among a group of initial recommendations that drew support from a local parking steering committee was a proposal to place parking meters in a four-block stretch of Washington Street and along parts of Fourth and Fifth streets.

There were several other elements in the presentation, such as more free parking in the downtown area and a reassessment of how spaces were to be utilized in downtown garages, but the one that became the lightning rod for the overall study was the suggestion about metered parking.

Columbus Mayor Kristen Brown and several members of the City Council were quick to distance themselves from the metered proposal, suggesting instead that other approaches should be tried before considering what some officials consider to be the last option.

While the recommendations are on the table, the consulting firm is still to deliver a final report that would provide more detailed technical information about the individual steps. As Tom Dell, downtown retailer and parking steering committee president, observed, “I would much rather wait to see what they (consultants) come back with as far as their recommendations, because otherwise we are all trying to put our own spin on it, and these people are experts in parking studies. ... If we start putting our own twist on it before we get their information back, I think we short-sight ourselves.”

That would be a wise course of action for city officials to follow before consigning the meter issue to the dust bin.

It’s been 20 years since parking meters lined downtown streets (they were removed upon completion of the Streetscape project in the 1990s), and the technology has undergone drastic changes. Modern meters, for instance, can be operated with credit cards as opposed to their predecessors in the pre-1990s era when dimes and quarters were coins of the realm.

Perhaps meters should only be considered as a last resort, but that course of action should be settled upon only after decision makers have detailed and complete information about how various approaches can be implemented

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