Downtown parking needs uniformity

Does downtown Winslow have a parking problem? If so, a dearth of spaces is only half of it. Consider these signs posted around town:

“Customer Parking Only”...“1 Hour Parking For This Building Only”...“Private 2-Hour Customer Parking Only.” And the ubiquitous “LOOK – GATEWAY TOWING (etc.).”

Far from inviting shoppers – defined here as folks who want to come downtown and browse several stores, not just pop in and out of a single business – these notices contribute to the perception that if you can’t find a parking space on Winslow Way, you might as well drive to Silverdale.

To be sure, we support plans for a modest parking garage near city hall, but we doubt financing will be resolved anytime soon. In the meantime, we can’t help but feel that a large part of our parking “problem” is simply the hodgepodge of inventory – on-street spaces, various city-owned and private lots, and larger commercial ventures, all with their own rules.

As noted elsewhere in this edition, outgoing Mayor Dwight Sutton is reviving an ad hoc committee to study Winslow parking issues. We suggest the committee avoid piecemeal solutions and consider creation (by city council ordinance or resolution if need be) of a “Downtown Parking District.”

We formalize the title to suggest the range of possibilities in establishing a network of spaces and lots clearly designated to promote commerce in the Winslow core:

Signage and hours: Shoppers and patrons of professional offices want to find parking with ease and haste. Standardized signs bearing a “Downtown Parking District” logo would steer them in the right direction, and end confusion over “public or private” space availability. By establishing uniform hours appropriate to each parking area – two hours, half-day or permit only – drivers would find predictability in parking, and might spend more time downtown, more often.

Enforcement: Key to the success of a Downtown Parking District would be the participation of private, non-commercial lot owners, bringing into the fold key spaces around Bjune Drive businesses, down Madrone Lane and in the alleyway behind Winslow Mall (perhaps even Town and Country). The arrangement would be quid pro quo: Lot owners agree to join the parking district and designate their spaces for general public use, and the police department adds those lots to the rounds of the parking enforcement officer. Team Winslow has identified an array of ways to beef up enforcement and fines, including multiple tickets for all-day scoff laws, citations for “chain parking,” and a metal “boot” to immobilize vehicles of chronic offenders. Dedicate the new revenue to pay for a much-needed second parking officer, to guarantee results.

Employee parking permits: Merchants who park on Winslow Way are taking money out of everyone’s pockets, yet the employee parking program administered by the Chamber of Commerce enjoys only mixed success. A Downtown Parking District should guarantee off-street employee parking within a 90-second walk of the workplace; public and private spaces should be redesignated for such permits to meet demand.

Say what you will about Silverdale-type malls, they work largely because you can shop at dozens of stores without moving your car. There’s a lesson here for Winslow: we need to encourage patronage of our downtown as a whole.

Establishing a Downtown Parking District – with uniform rules and enforcement, and the participation of all lot owners – would go a long way to solving our “problem,” real or


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