The new rates for parking in downtown decks have Asheville's nighttime workers steamed. The increases took effect on Sept. 8 and have been a hot topic of discussion among employees of downtown establishments, who aren't mincing their words.
"It stinks," says College Street Pub bartender Richard Watts. "The people I know who work downtown, especially late night, all park in the decks. It's cheaper and it's safer."
Before the change, it cost only a dollar or two (depending on the deck) to get a car out after 7 p.m. With the new rates, the first hour is free, followed by 50 cents per hour at the Civic Center and 75 cents per hour at the Rankin Avenue and Wall Street Decks, with an $8 daily maximum. Rates are the same for weekdays and weekends. That may not seem a lot, but it adds up over the course of a workweek. What once cost $5 a week, now costs $40.
Since the rates went up, downtown workers have taken to the streets. Not in protest, but in search of curbside parking. Metered spaces cost $1 per hour, but are free after 6 p.m., and they may become the favored option for downtown's late-night workers.
Lobster Trap cook Mike McCarty had been parking in the decks for two years. "It's ridiculous," he says, returning from feeding a meter. "Everyone's very upset. It's hurting the people who work downtown the most."
The city says the previous, dirt-cheap late-night rate was a result of technologically limited collection machines, some of which notoriously spit back inserted bills. Now the city has upgraded with $386,000 in new machines, which also take credit and debit cards.
With downtown workers shifting their attention to curbside parking, some argue that the city may find there is increased demand for these spaces, which it has preferred to leave for the use of customers and tourists.