Letter: City Council should create parking solutions downtown

Write to Mountain Xpress
Graphic by Lori Deaton

Recently I was in downtown Asheville to pay my property taxes. The traffic was horrific, and parking was a nightmare. It is extremely frustrating to live in a city that has become nearly impossible for taxpaying citizens to navigate or enjoy because of tourists. My compliments to the staff of Buncombe County Tax Department; they were doing an awesome job serving a long line of people.

I know tourism is important to the local economy, but considering the low wages generated by tourism, I think City Council should do more to improve the lives of Asheville citizens. Every election cycle, we hear promises of change, yet our quality of life decreases every day. Why? When are our elected officials actually going to work to represent the needs of everyone, versus a few developers and business owners?

I have two ideas. I would like to see City Council designate parking that is reserved for taxpaying citizens. This could be accomplished by purchasing a yearly parking sticker and color-coded parking spots.

And, develop the “pit of despair” across from the civic center as an eco-friendly hub for a park-and-ride service. The city could purchase or lease empty lots along Tunnel Road and the River Arts District for parking. The buses would run every 10-15 minutes, help bridge downtown and the River Arts District, reduce traffic congestion, provide easier access for folks employed downtown and supply a few new jobs.

What say you, City Council?

— David Robertson
Asheville

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22 thoughts on “Letter: City Council should create parking solutions downtown

  1. SpareChange

    Driving and parking in downtown Asheville can be a little vexing or irritating — but, “horrific” and “a nightmare” seems a little over the top.

    Anyway, does the writer know about the city’s parking app – showing in real time how many spaces are available in the various city garages? It can be accessed online or from an app on a smartphone.
    http://cityofasheville.github.io/wheres-parking/

  2. luther blissett

    Again, it’s mostly not a parking problem, it’s a walking problem. If the city were to designate spots for residents in, for instance, the Civic Center deck, would the letter-writer park there and walk to the South Slope? I’m all for better signage and even a downtown shuttle, but “cheap ample parking right next to wherever I want to be” is not a solvable problem.

    Tunnel Road is already full of parking lots, most operating well under capacity, and some of them serve as de facto park and rides. If the city wanted to formalize that by leasing spots, that’s fine, but it doesn’t need any new lots.

  3. BMacAVL

    Why not have more street signs with a BLUE “P” to help indicate to residence and visitors alike where the “City Garages” are located like many other cities do? While they are at it they could also put signs on downtown “light poles” at all intersections showing directions for lane changes…the specific intersection that comes to mind is Lexington and College heading north(downhill)…the left lane is a turn only but the only indication is painted on the street so most folks driving down the hill do not know that going straight requires being in the right lane and the left lane is a TURN ONLY…a BLUE “P” sign would be great along with a directional indicator as to which lanes go what way…just a thought to help that intersection in particular.

    • luther blissett

      The sign and space indicator at College and Rankin for the Civic Center and Rankin Ave decks was a good first step, and there is some signposting at the I-240 exits. (It’s an orange-circled P.) No amount of signage is going to persuade people to use the city and county decks if they’re determined to find a free or even a metered space 100 yards from their intended destination.

      • BMacAVL

        Free for the first hour and $1.25 per hour for additional time is enough for me to use the garage…ain’t no such thing as FREE LUNCH or FREE PARKING in this specific case. Unless of coarse you call driving around for 20 minutes, wasting gas, hoping to score a spot within a football field of the desired destination, is somehow FREE…walking around town isn’t all that bad…cold this time of year but most restaurants are small enough to keep a dining room warm for customers.

  4. Robin Canuck

    The funny thing is that the “Pit of Despair” used to be a private parking garage that paid taxes and brought some revenue to the City. The City of Asheville bought the old parking garage and tore it down with the promise of building a larger and more useful garage with multi-use businesses who would presumably pay rent and taxes. It was even part of a budget pitch one year.
    From that budget pitch, the City spent somewhere in the neighborhood of $2.5 million to study the site and develop a proposed design. After that project was canned from political pressure, the City then spent more tax money putting up retaining walls to create the “Pit”. Fast forward ten years and taxpayers are probably out $3 million (expenses and missed revenue) and still have nothing to show for it.
    Truth is, just like with the I-26 project, the City can’t figure out how to appease everybody, so they just throw money at it on studies and half-thought out solutions and continue to do nothing meaningful.
    I’m neutral on what happens with the “Pit”, but for goodness sake, please stop wasting taxpayer money on temporary solutions to permanent problems.

    • SpareChange

      You are so right about “The Pit.” But ya’ gotta love the multi-million dollar “community garden” that produced a dozen tomato plants and some flowers (now an unmaintained eyesore throughout the winter), not to mention the swell food truck lot (which almost no one is utilizing) which sits within a stone’s throw of more than a dozen places to eat, serving all kinds of food, doing business in ways that actually contribute to the tax base.

      • Robin Canuck

        I’m sure the Assistant City Manager would say that $250,000 per tomato plant is a good investment in our food shortage area like downtown. After all, she’s the same person who bought the old garage, directed that it be torn down, hired the $2.5 million study, and then had the “Pit” built, and now commissions more studies on what to do with the property.
        It seems like a cycle that she’s using to keep herself employed making $200,000 per year while citizens are still writing letters wanting the same thing they did ten years ago. She’s going to make a career out of the same darn project, and still not build anything.
        Alas, Asheville keeps putting up with it by electing the exact same Council makeup year in and year out. Like I said earlier, I’m neutral on the “Pit”, and I honestly don’t care if they are “D’s” or “R’s”, but please, please, stop wasting my tax money on the same thing over and over again.

    • BMacAVL

      You mean bureaucracy isn’t efficient by definition and handing out these “study” contracts to political cronies on bullsh*t inconclusive research is a waste of taxpayers money? I really should get out more….LOL! I’m completely with you and find myself swallowing my utter disdain on a daily basis for the complete lack of respect our city/state/federal governments have for it’s tax revenue base…we are all just numbers to help them continue filling personal bank accounts, giving themselves raises, and electing more political cronies to keep the system the way it has always been.

  5. Enlightened Enigma

    Do not ask city council to do anything . They are totally inept, unworthy and an evil embarrassment to the whole city. They all need to resign and get the hell out of city hall. They are elected criminals.

  6. jason

    yes a resident parking sticker; and designating parking spaces for us…. it’s terrible that i feel that i don’t have access to my own town

    • Robin Canuck

      Actually, the City used to have that too. In the 1970 and 80’s, you’d go downtown and pay your fee (I believe it was $6), and the City would give you a sticker that was legally required to be placed on the windshield of your car. With that sticker, you had access to things non-residents didn’t (like on-street parking).

  7. cecil bothwell

    The best way to reduce downtown traffic congestion is to make downtown parking inconvenient and expensive. We need to get people out of their cars any way we can. That’s the logical future. As a traffic expert told us on Finance Committee during my last year on Council: you don’t want to be the last city to build a parking deck. Driverless cars are going to radically change parking demand over the next decade.

    • Robin Canuck

      There’s your answer letter writer. An actual member of the Council who canned the originally proposed project wants to, “make downtown parking inconvenient and expensive”. At least he’s honest, and now we know; downtown parking is inconvenient and expensive by design.
      The only question I would have for Mr. Bothwell is; Why buy the property, why tear down the buildings, and why, oh why, would you approve and pay for the studies and expenses if it was never intended to be built? This project reduced the number of parking spaces, reduced occupied buildings (with their rent and tax revenue), and has done nothing but cost taxpayers money.
      I appreciate Mr. Bothwell’s conviction, but as a representative of the people who elected him; at some point in time you need to put your constituents needs ahead of your own desires.
      Mr. Bothwell’s response seems kind of arrogant in that citizens have been asking for increased and improved parking since the Grove Arcade and Haywood Park were redeveloped, but all of those previous requests are irrelevant now based on his own opinion.
      I remember a downtown Asheville that had few cars (and fewer parking places), and that downtown Asheville was bleak and desolate. Those who don’t learn from history…

      • luther blissett

        “citizens have been asking for increased and improved parking since the Grove Arcade and Haywood Park were redeveloped”

        There is the Wall Street deck. There is on-street parking around the Grove Arcade and on Otis Street; the Rankin and Civic Center decks and the Cherry Street spaces are all within a quarter-mile. The private lot now occupied by the Pit of Perpetual Consultation Exercises was not the potential savior of downtown parking, not least because downtown has grown southwards, but also because residents driving into downtown are allergic to paying private lot rates.

        I suppose knocking down the Grove Arcade would free up space for more parking in that area.

    • NFB

      “Driverless cars are going to radically change parking demand over the next decade.”

      A “driverless “car” is still going to need a place to park when the user wants to go downtown.

      • luther blissett

        Not going to retread old ground on the robot car future, or what private companies will demand from cities to accommodate it. “Inconvenient and expensive” is one way to approach parking provision; there’s a less radical approach that removes most on-street parking to disincentivize circulating and consolidates it in a few places.

        Those who complain about a lack of parking downtown and want designated spaces need to spell out (honestly) where they want them, how much they’d be willing to pay, and how far of a walk is too far. It’s staking a timeshare claim on 180 square feet of downtown.

      • Lulz

        LOL Bothwell is pushing his driverless car narrative because then he can consume heavy amounts of booze and not get a DUI. I guess Bluebird Taxi is beneath him.

  8. Johnny to the A

    “It is extremely frustrating to live in a city that has become nearly impossible for taxpaying citizens to navigate or enjoy because of tourists.”

    You do realize those same pesky tourists subsidize your tax dollars and therefore government services, don’t you? If it weren’t for tourist this city would crater. It would be the same back-water, soulless suckhole as Weaverville, Slyva, Bryson City, Marshall, Marion, etc.

    But yes, let’s give up a better overall quality of life for more parking spots. Who wants to make the effort of walking or downloading an app to aid in parking. So exhausting!

    I am making a poster now, let the protests begin! More parking for the xenophobes! More parking for the xenophobes!More parking for the xenophobes!

    • NFB

      “You do realize those same pesky tourists subsidize your tax dollars and therefore government services, don’t you? ”

      Do they? Yeah, I guess to a certain extent, but the TDA has been adamant that absolutely 0% of the hotel room tax go to help locals pay for services that tourists use. Instead it must go to the TDA so it can fill up all the hotels in town with more tourists who use services that locals must pay for. And, oh, by law the TDA must be made up of a majority of hotel owners, thus setting up an inbred system determined to feed at its own trough. Then they get dismayed and wonder why there is a backlash to the tourism industry.

  9. Enlightened Enigma

    ‘yet, our quality of life (in AVL) decreases every day, why?’

    simply decades of democrackkk NON leadership have brought us to this point of despair, even in good times, in the most pathetically run city known in the nation…we do not have a mayor and city council that represents all the people. They REFUSE to demand accountability from the biggest problem in AVL, the Housing Authority. Gary Jackson, the pussified city manager will not do his job of imploring council to do this – which is the RIGHT thing for the city. WHY would any mayor, city council or city manager NOT want oversight of the biggest problem we have ? there is no reason.

    email city council and manager and ask them why?

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