Durham News

One-hour street parking limit in downtown Durham frustrates

A city of Durham parking sign and meter on East Chapel Hill Street in Durham on Thursday, March 2, 2017. The city started charging for on-street downtown parking on Monday, Feb. 27, 2017.
A city of Durham parking sign and meter on East Chapel Hill Street in Durham on Thursday, March 2, 2017. The city started charging for on-street downtown parking on Monday, Feb. 27, 2017. vbridges@newsobserver.com

Erica Brandon was happy to find a parking space on Main Street last week on her way to lunch at Dame’s Chicken & Waffles.

But when she fed her information into the new parking meter, she saw the space she had just pulled into was limited to one-hour parking.

“Now, I’m not happy with it,” she said.

Still, she paid her $1.50, put the ticket on her car and headed to lunch, taking a risk that she would be back before the meter ran out.

The system is new, she said. Time will tell whether it is a good or bad thing.

Brandon’s reaction to the new paid street parking that took effect in downtown last week was typical. The new meters charge $1.50 per hour for 1,000 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.

The fees, which will help maintain current decks and build a new one, are expected to generate about $1.7 million per year.

They are in use between 8 a.m. and and 7 p.m. on weekdays to encourage turnover and to get people who want to stay longer to use parking decks, said Thomas Leathers, with the city’s Transportation Department.

Gray Brooks, co-owner of downtown’s Pizzeria Toro and Littler, however, said he is concerned about the hour time limit at the meters within the downtown loop.

“If you were to pick the mandatory amount of time that was most efficient for generating revenue and the least efficient for actual people using downtown it would be one hour,” he said.

It takes less than an hour to run to the bank or post office, Brooks said, and more than that to have lunch.

“(Customers) seem like a little frantic, like they have to finish up and go,” he said.

Parking decks – $1.25 per hour with no time limit – are nearby, but many customers think parking in them will take too much time during their lunch hour, Brooks said.

The city plans to reevaluate all of the time limits in the downtown area later this year, Leathers said.

If you were to pick the mandatory amount of time that was most efficient for generating revenue and the least efficient for actual people using downtown it would be one hour.

Gray Brooks, restaurant owner

Other residents expressed concerns about parking in a handful of letters to the City Council last week.

One person complained about the required hourly parking in front of the post office. Another said it would prevent low-income people from spending time and their money downtown. A third email expressed concern about the paid parking near the Durham Center for Senior Life on Rigsbee Avenue. The email said that the center’s parking lot is often full and the paid parking creates a barrier for people who want to use the center, causing some to turn around and go home.

Land Arnold, owner of Letters Bookshop on Main Street said while customers have voiced concern, he thinks it will be a good thing in the future.

“I think it’s good to have really quick spots for turnover,” he said.

City officials have urged residents concerned about the financial impact to take the bus or use the free Bull City Connector, which provides free bus service from Duke University to Golden Belt, Ninth Street and downtown.

Ali Linn and Mark Daumen, who work at The Durham Hotel’s coffee shop, said the paid parking has cut into their secret spots and left some downtown workers figuring out how to find affordable parking.

They also pointed out that they weren’t sure where they could park for free to take the Bull City Connector.

“Where is the park and ride?” Daumen said.

Brad Schulz, spokesman for GoTriangle, said there are some free spots near Golden Belt, but didn’t have a specific number.

Virginia Bridges: 919-829-8924, @virginiabridges

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