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November 6, 2013
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Editorial: City should put the brakes on ambitious parking program

Social planners at offices, volunteer groups and clubs often say the best way to get attendees in the door is to offer good snacks.

No one expects city leaders and downtown merchants to stand on the corner of Southeast Jackson Street and Cass Avenue with a plate of homemade chocolate chip cookies. Still, it’s worth remembering that one of the keys to attracting people is to ensure they can get there easily. A key to getting them back is to ensure they have a good experience once they arrive.

Roseburg boosters have long pondered ways to get more shoppers downtown. And not just shoppers, but pedestrians, visitors and families all contributing to a vibrant landscape.

A big part of that is parking. Finding a good spot, getting in with minimal cost and out with no fuss are all crucial to most drivers. Otherwise, why not head for the malls and big-box lots?

Next week, the Roseburg City Council is expected to hear more about a proposal to double revenue from downtown parking fees and fines.

One suggestion is to increase the meter rates to 50 cents per hour, up from the 20 cents that’s been charged since 1990. Another is to hike parking fines to $25, up from the $10 that has also been in place for the past 13 years.

On the face of it, a bump in rates seems reasonable. Costs go up. Proponents suggest using the money to help maintain parking lots and a parking garage, which are necessary expenses.

In addition, there do need to be penalties for those who abuse the system by habitually overstaying their welcomes in prime spots.

But it seems that in attempting to solve a problem a year ago, the city seesawed into another one.

Twelve months ago, downtown merchants took over parking enforcement after repeated claims that the Seattle-based Diamond Parking was no gem when it came to keeping customers happy. The Downtown Roseburg Association persuaded the city to replace the company with Park Smart, which operated on a friendlier basis. Its two enforcement officers wrote tickets for expired meters but preferred issuing warnings for other offenses.

As a result, merchants said there were fewer complaints. But also fewer tickets and less revenue, which should have surprised nobody.

Now, where meter rates, monthly parking permits and citations net $126,000, some city staffers would like to see the pendulum swing to $254,000. Any guesses as to what will happen to the number of customer laments? Or, taking it a step out, the number of customers?

The idea of expecting a significant revenue bump from a parking enforcement program seems misguided. That kind of parking vigilantism will do more than drive away motorists. It also will incur costs of its own that will require feeding, much like a ticking meter.

A small town seeking to draw more people to its core doesn’t need a big-city parking system. People in metro areas deal with parking hassles because they have to. Here, they have choices.

We encourage the city to consider options that encourage people to choose to take their business downtown.

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The News-Review Updated Nov 6, 2013 07:45PM Published Nov 6, 2013 12:16PM Copyright 2013 The News-Review. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.