Durham News

On-street parking fees start Monday in downtown Durham

An on-street parking meter on Main Street in downtown Durham on Friday, Feb. 17, 2017. The city will start charging $1.50 an hour for on-street parking downtown on Feb. 27.
An on-street parking meter on Main Street in downtown Durham on Friday, Feb. 17, 2017. The city will start charging $1.50 an hour for on-street parking downtown on Feb. 27. vbridges@newsobserver.com

Reactions to on-street parking fees coming to downtown Durham on Monday are mixed.

Some think it was inevitable.

Some think the fee – $1.50 per hour – is too expensive.

And some think it will ultimately help by encouraging turnover in downtown’s in-demand spaces.

Tom Luthy, pharmacy manager for longtime downtown small business Main Street Pharmacy, doesn’t fall into any camp.

“I can see where they are coming from,” Luthy said about city officials’ contention that it will encourage turnover. “Honestly, I don’t think it is going to make that much of a difference.”

Parking downtown has been a nightmare for years, he said, and it will continue to be a significant challenge even after the city starts charging for it. On-street parking fees will be enforced from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday.

The new on-street meters will collect cash, credit and debit payments for about 1,000 on-street public parking spaces in and near downtown, the American Tobacco Campus, the Durham Performing Arts Center, West Village, the Brightleaf District, Durham Central Park, the Durham County Human Services Complex and the North Corporation and Geer Street District.

Many spaces will have a time limit enforced during peak usage hours to encourage faster turnover.

The city is also increasing the hourly rate in the city’s parking garages and lots from $1 an hour to $1.25. Event parking will rise from $3 to $5.

A 2013 parking study on downtown and the Ninth Street area recommended raising rates and on-street parking charges. A city report on the change last year indicated the new fees and increases would bring in $2.82 million in the 2017-18 fiscal year.

Thomas Leathers, the city’s Parking Management Division administrator, couldn’t be reached for comment. In a news release, Leathers said the increase is needed to offset the costs associated with providing maintenance and a security presence in the parking facilities. He also said the meters will encourage the much-needed turnover of vehicles to meet rapidly growing demand downtown.

But JoAnn Peaks disagrees.

She thinks $1.50 an hour will result in people finding somewhere else to go or spending less money downtown.

“It think it’s too much,” said Peaks, 45 of Durham, while waiting to get a table at the popular Dame’s Chicken & Waffles.

Peaks was also concerned about the change creating challenges for people who are elderly and/or disabled and want to dine and visit downtown businesses.

Wendy Tregay, 47 of Durham, said she is “bummed” but not surprised.

“I just feel like I was really luck for a little while,” because the city didn’t charge, she said.

Gray Brooks, co-owner of downtown eateries Pizzeria Torro and Littler, said he went through a similar conversion when he was living in Seattle.

“Overall, I feel like people adjust,” he said.

Nicole Thompson, president of Downtown Durham Inc., wrote in an email that the downtown advocacy nonprofit supports the change. There will be an adjustment period, but downtown’s amenities will continue to pull people to the center city.

“Paid parking should give visitors some assurance that there will be available parking within downtown. With Durham’s residential and commercial activity growing, parking (and the lack of) will continue to be a challenging issue,” she wrote. “This is the first step in trying to address this issue in a fair and equitable manner.”

Virginia Bridges: 919-829-8924, @virginiabridges

What’s going on with Ninth Street parking?

On-street parking on Ninth Street will remain free.

The city started charging $1 an hour in 2014 to park in a parking area that used to be free. The change upset some merchants, who at one point talked about subleasing the lot but later dropped the idea. Now some business owners reimburse Ninth Street visitors who have to park in the lot.

Daryn O’Shea, owner of Ninth Street computer repair and parts shop The Computer Cellar who leads the Ninth Street Merchants Association, said businesses in the area have moved on to focus on working together to bring more people to the street.

Meanwhile, the lot with about 40 spaces still sits largely empty during weekday collection hours. About 11 cars were parked in the lot at noon Friday.

About downtown parking:

For more information about downtown parking visit http://www.parkdurham.org/