Carrboro should charge for downtown public parking, town council says

GOVERNMENT

By Fraser Sherman
Correspondent

Carrboro Town Council says drivers who leave their cars in the city’s public parking lot for hours should pay for the privilege.

At Tuesday’s council meeting, Carrboro Economic Development Director Jon Hartman-Brown said the town’s parking studies have found most drivers using public parking leave their cars longer than the maximum allowed, which is two hours. He said there’s little reason to abide by the limit because there is no fine for staying longer and nobody on the town staff to write tickets.

Hartman-Brown said the three factors in public parking are affordability, convenience, and availability. Carrboro’s parking is convenient and free, so it’s often unavailable. “Typically, you want to see [parking lot] occupancy at 75 to 80 percent,” because above that, drivers wind up congesting the streets as they circle around hunting an empty space. Some of the city’s parking lots hit 90 to 100 percent occupancy at busy times.

Switching to paid parking, Hartman-Brown said, would cost $340,000 each year for the first three years. That includes the cost of software to track parking and someone to write up citations. Last year, the council budgeted for enforcement when they decided the town should start getting serious about the two-hour limit. Paid parking, Hartman-Brown added, could also generate $134,700 to $448,500 in annual revenue, not counting money from parking tickets. The amount depends on the fee Carrboro sets and how many free spaces are switched to paid parking.

The council said the city should switch all of Carrboro’s public parking to a paying basis. Some council members said, however, that drivers who didn’t park for long shouldn’t have to pay. Council member Danny Nowell said 15 to 30 minutes for drivers on brief errands was reasonable. Council member Randee Haven-O’Donnell said a driver could take 30 minutes just walking from some of the town’s parking lots down to Weaver Street. A two-hour window, she said, was generous enough to keep visitors coming downtown and would be fairer to disabled individuals dependent on their cars.

While the city has ADA-accessible spaces, Hartman-Brown said the fine for using them illegally is only $50, too low to discourage able-bodied drivers from using them. Council Member

Catherine Fray asked city staff to bring back an ordinance raising the fine. Hartman-Brown said that can be done separately from the rest of the parking-fee plan.

The council told Hartman-Brown to keep working on the paid-parking proposal, though they’d want more data and public feedback before signing off.

The council also discussed the designs for the new parking signs meant to help Carrboro visitors find the lots easily. One sign decorated with a frog illustration attracted considerable skepticism from the council members.

“It looks like it’s where you’d … park your frog,” Council member Jason Merrill quipped.

Hartman-Brown said he’d determine whether the design contract allowed them to make revisions. While critical of the sign, Council Member Fray said they understood change might not be an option: “That frog has sailed.”


Fraser Sherman has worked for newspapers, including the Destin Log, the Pensacola News-Journal and the Raleigh Public Record. Born in England, he’d still live in Florida if he hadn’t met the perfect woman and moved to Durham to marry her. He’s the author of several film reference books and has published one novel and several short story collections.

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