Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The Seeds of Dissention

You might assume that, when it comes to local government, the most burning, most pressing, most divisive issue would be taxation and the municipal budget. You might assume that residents have the strongest feelings about their pocketbooks. You would be wrong. If you want to start a local civil war you only have to say one little word, and that word is "parking."

I have been listening to arguments about parking for five years. Local merchants complain that the meter fees in the central business district are too high. Everyone complains when the meters are enforced and tickets are written. When the meters aren't enforced, everyone complains that compliance is spotty. When tickets are written because people are parking too close to intersections everyone complains, and when enforcement of intersection sightlines are ignored everyone complains about that.

Those who live in higher density residential neighborhoods who don't have off-street parking complain when they can't park directly in front of their own homes. People who have driveways and garages complain when neighbors or visitors park in front of their homes just because they don't like the view of parked cars from their front windows. People who live near schools or local businesses located within residential neighborhoods complain when customers or staff park near their homes. People who live on streets with plenty of parking for all complain if anyone parks on their street, even for a minute.

Propose a new business or redevelopment project in my city and everyone will immediately start complaining about parking. Propose a new parking deck and everyone will complain about the wisdom of parking decks. Propose a parking lot and everyone will complain about impervious surfaces. If you want neighbor to turn against neighbor, friend against friend, simply lean into a group of peaceful-seeming people and whisper, "Parking." Within 30 seconds fisticuffs will commence.

If there's a solution I don't know it. When you live in a place with medium or high density, in old neighborhoods built before every home contained a two-car garage, you're going to have a lot of cars competing for on-street parking. Distraction is probably the best method to combat the divisiveness of the parking issue. Lean into that same group and whisper the second-most controversial topic and parking will become a distant memory. That topic? Street trees.


tunsie said...

I think parking is a sensitive issue with women.especially if they work in a downtown.the women want 2 park near their employ because of safety woman we know came out of her business and saw 8 or 9 guys on the sidewalk talking.she approached them and said "don"t hurt me I know tunsie" .a little extreme but it shows how fearful women r when they go 2 thier car,especially at nite.I don't think business complain about a lack of parking as much as one wants 2 park in a dark alley because thier car may be vandalised.businesses especially restaurants whitin close proximity of each other do well collectively but it cause havoc with the parking situation in a 2 or 3 block radius.....i luv u el.....tunsie.tunsie.tunsie

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