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Monday, February 26, 2007

Local businessman approves of new parking technology

Chris Toomey, owner of Belvedere Belgian Chocolate Shop, recently wrote a letter to The Daily Camera expressing his views on the new parking kiosks which will soon be installed in Downtown Boulder. Mr. Toomey sees the importance of this technology and how it will help the vitality of Downtown Boulder. Mr. Toomey also serves on the board of Downtown Boulder, Inc.

Toomey: Making parking more convenient

No one likes searching for enough quarters to feed the meters in downtown Boulder. Moreover, everyone loathes seeing a parking ticket on their window. Just think about the last time you received a parking ticket after being only a couple of minutes late. To alleviate some of these parking issues, the City Council recently unanimously approved a proposal for new parking kiosks to replace and update its aging meters.

Three downtown governing boards brought the proposal to City Council after two years of discussions, planning, analysis and community input. Volunteers compose these boards: the Downtown Boulder Business Improvement District, Downtown Boulder Incorporated and the Downtown Management Commission. They give numerous hours of their time to continually improve the downtown experience for everyone. That said, the boards realize that it is necessary to charge for parking. Charging for parking promotes alternative modes of transportation, funds a multitude of downtown activities and turns spaces over for multiple users.

Specifically, the boards proposed to City Council the following improvements to downtown parking and transportation management: upgrade meters with customer-friendly on-street parking kiosks that take credit cards, expand the downtown Eco Pass program to include an additional 750 full-time employees, commission studies for expanding the Neighborhood Parking Permit program (like Whittier neighborhood), and enhance parking-validation and parking-promotions programs.

The council unanimously approved this proposal. The proposal authorizes the purchase of new parking kiosk technology for downtown. The solar-powered kiosks (already widely adopted in the United States and Europe) replace 1930s technology and will allow visitors to use coins, tokens or credit/debit cards for parking. Repeated independent research of downtown Boulder customers shows that they think finding enough change to pay for parking is a great nuisance. However, they also think that paying another quarter for improved convenience is reasonable. In addition, cash continues to become a less common means of payment, as credit/debit card usage rises year after year.

Coupled with the convenience factor of kiosks, reduction in the likelihood of receiving a ticket promises to be very positive. When only coins can be used at meters, visitors will put in as much money as they have in their pockets — which is usually not enough. Having the option of using a credit card enables parkers to much more easily buy as much time as they need. After installing parking kiosks, the city of Seattle reported a reduction in overtime-at-meter tickets. The new kiosks present an excellent opportunity to effectively address the negativity surrounding parking tickets.

To realize these numerous and exciting benefits, there are associated costs. These include an hourly rate increase of $1 to $1.25 an hour. Parkers will also have to pay on-street until 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday. It is very important to note that the downtown boards should be commended for the fact that they both requested these changes and were willing to pay for them. City Council's forward-thinking leadership should also be recognized. They approved this measure despite the fact that the city's general fund will be hurt because of reduced parking-ticket revenues.

Paying for parking doesn't only give us brand-new kiosks. Downtown Boulder is truly progressive in that it reinvests its parking revenues into things that make the district such a special place. Your parking quarters fund Eco Passes for thousands of employees (turning countless drivers into bus riders), construction of parking garages (more than 1,300 spaces added in the last eight years), downtown capital improvements (such as the pop jet fountain and weeping rock), support of downtown programs (fairs, ambassadors, banners) and research to help maintain the vitality of the district — all great things that would not be funded without paid parking.

Downtown Boulder does not have a parking problem. On the contrary, it has an internationally recognized parking-management system. Updating our Depression-era technology to the 21st century parallels the progressive and vibrant character of downtown. Boulder residents, visitors, businesses, employees and downtown neighbors will all benefit and thrive from these exciting changes.

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posted by Downtown Boulder @ Monday, February 26, 2007   0 comments


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