If you’re a visitor to the areas within Downtown Raleigh where parking meters have sprung up, you may be tempted to complain. But let me give you a few things to consider that might change your viewpoint.
You are most likely accustomed to being able to park close to your destination and not pay a fee. This is of course what most drivers experience in the suburbs, where big-box stores, retail strip centers and indoor malls come surrounded with loads of free parking spaces.
Yet we need to appreciate that parking associated with suburban pattern living has a hidden cost, and one that is ultimately paid by everyone in the form of traffic congestion, negative consequences on the environment, and the poor use of available land. A NYT article makes some good points about how Free Parking Comes at a Price.
Urban centers by their very nature encourage a more efficient use of space, and these costs are gradually becoming more visible, as with the recent expanded use of metered on-street parking on many of our Downtown streets. If the existing city owned parking decks become better utilized as a result, then that’s a good thing, and we save taxpayer money.
One unfortunate reality today in Downtown Raleigh is the abundance of privately owned surface parking lots that in most cases are used as “space holders” by land owners waiting all too patiently to cash in at a future time when there are better development opportunities for their parcels of land.
Consequently, open land used in its simplest form as parking lots, dot the Downtown landscape and discourage pedestrian activity as the adjacent sidewalks are often unkept and overgrown with vegetation . . and there’s nothing interesting about walking by a parking lot!
My friend Leo recently posted a very informative article on his Raleigh Connoisseur blog that led me to write this post. He makes an excellent case for just how inefficient our Downtown land use has become when he points out, “you may be surprised to know that your Downtown parking lot is worth more than the cars that sit on them!”