Letter: Fee hike makes downtown less welcoming for locals

Graphic by Lori Deaton

Locals not welcome downtown. This is the (unintended?) message City Council sent to the community on [April 24]. Locals are still allowed to drive through and take out, but if you want to relax over coffee, meet a friend for lunch, take your toddler to Splashville, dance to music at our “free” street festivals or get your hair cut, it’s going to cost you. [See April 27 post “City Council Approves Parking Changes in Budget Work Session” on mountainx.com].

For decades, locals have relied on the first-hour-free policy in city garages to make it a little more affordable to spend time in our own downtown. We could run a quick errand and park for free, or pay $1.25 to enjoy two hours exploring amenities that make Asheville such a popular tourist destination. For those of us with more modest incomes, Council’s new plan continues the first hour free to maximize revenues from us, but the second hour is now $2.50 to keep us from cluttering up downtown.

We didn’t get here by accident. By keeping the parking supply low, Council and staff have been able to jack up rates and make it harder to park, so many locals no longer try to come downtown. This reserves the heart of our city for tourists and locals able to pay. Downtown businesses catering to locals will struggle even more, we will see more tourist-centered businesses open in their stead, and Council and staff will wonder why. Monthly parking rates are also going up, and the additional stress on lower-wage downtown employees is disregarded — again. Long-promised satellite lots are nowhere to be seen. Council needs to quit blaming tourists and take care of locals — and local businesses.

Here’s hoping Parking Services makes changes to its system to allow for quick and easy exits from the garages. Getting stuck in garage traffic could now cost you $2.50.

— Monica Teutsch


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20 thoughts on “Letter: Fee hike makes downtown less welcoming for locals

  1. boatrocker

    I frequently work downtown. I find myself $12 in the hole before I even start work (sigh).
    I haul bulky equipment to work so nope to a bus or uber/lyft as it is not feasible.
    Right on with the comment about downtown not being welcoming to locals.

    Trying to negotiate crowds full of gawkers and looky loos makes me feel like I’m stuck in
    an R. Crumb cartoon (remember that 80’s song “The Freaks Come Out at Night”)?

    Though I have no clear cut solution, add me to the list of frustrated locals.
    As with any problem/solution scenario, the city
    kow-towing to unsustainable tourism
    sure seems like the problem.

    And spare me please please the hatriot comments about LIEberals. You’re not helping from a basement computer.

  2. luther blissett

    “By keeping the parking supply low”

    Look at satellite photos of downtown. Note that the AC and Buncombe HHS decks just opened. Yeah, they charge from the moment you enter, but that’s a thousand additional spaces outside of office hours. If what you really mean is “free parking 50 yards from your intended destination” then the question becomes which bits of downtown need demolishing to replace with new decks, which seems to defeat the purpose.

    (Yes to satellite parking. Yes to smart metering. Yes to some combination of extended retail hours and reduced-rate parking every month or so. But as Donald Shoup notes, free parking is paid for by everybody but the motorist.)

  3. Jason

    Downtown Asheville sucks for locals! Primarily; b/c
    We don’t get a lot of residential parking
    I am blown away that out this is not been implemented and I wonder who’s paying The mayor and city Council to turn a blind eye for this need

    • boatrocker

      My guess? Outta state GOP-voting developers in a back room deal somewhere.
      Picture a little sliding eyehole in a door and a voice asking for the password.

      • luther blissett

        My guess is more mundane. The private surface lots downtown — the ones with towing notices or hourly fees — tend to be owned by nice local businesses run by local people who sit on various downtown / city business commissions who will bemoan parking problems for locals but aren’t going to cancel their towing contracts or disable their meters.

        Again, though, I’d recommend Donald Shoup’s work on the topic: he notes that the cost of constructing a single above-ground garage space in most cities is typically higher than the value of the car parking in it. His suggestion has three components: eliminate off-street minimums for businesses; price parking dynamically around 85% occupancy; use parking revenue towards public services in the districts where that revenue is collected. (The latter would require a change in NC state law, which requires on-street parking fees must be used solely for enforcement.) But there’s no inherent entitlement to an on-demand timeshare of 200 square feet of downtown.

    • Lulz

      They don’t want locals downtown. Well at least the one’s that don’t work for low wages.

  4. Jay Reese

    Cities around the world have begun to limit access for cars. Studies have found Urban centers work best when people can move freely without the noise, pollution and harm caused by the automobile. Our City has been investing in alternative means of transit to get people downtown and will continue to do so. Raising the parking fees encourages folks who would normally drive to use some other form of transportation.

    • Lulz

      LOL, you live in some kind of fantasy world. Those buses alone that take tourist around to see the sights clog up downtown. If they wanted mass transit, they’d never have moved the bus depot from Pritchard Park. But you can’t have the poor and mentally ill hanging out across the street from the slop shop tourist traps.

      • Jay Reese

        You really need to step away from your keyboard and spend some time in the library. First off, Tour busses are not transit busses. Secondly it is not fanciful to say that economics drives individual behavior. I believe that is the fundamental tenant of our Capitalist economic system. Numerous studies have shown charging people the true cost of their driving habits encourages them to seek cheaper modes of transit. I don’t make this shit up, go to http://www.ashevillenc.gov/ and read for yourself what the Council has planned for our areas transportation infrastructure.

        • Lulz

          LOL what is the true costs of driving habits? Coming from someone who excludes the heavy subsidies of mass transit and the failures of it, you should start telling the truth. Car owners are triple if not quadruple taxed but the money is diverted away just like government is good at doing. And these morons on bikes who don’t pay any taxes should start to. Otherwise get off the road.

          • Joe Smithy

            Lulz…are you really suggesting that cyclists don’t pay “any taxes”?? Most of us operate vehicles and pay taxes on those like everyone else does. We just choose to go by bike for fitness/recreation. This silly argument is baseless. Should someone be taxed to walk on the sidewalk?

          • luther blissett

            “Car owners are triple if not quadruple taxed”

            [citation needed]

          • Jay Reese

            The true cost of driving includes about 40,000 deaths per year and hundreds of thousands of injuries. It includes environmental degradation and nearly a billion dead animals a year. It also includes the medical cost incurred due to anxiously sitting in a car for a few hours a day. A quick search will show you that the user fees charged to drivers do not even cover the cost of road construction and repair, let alone the negative effects to our society I just mentioned. Active transit on the other hand promotes health and community and can move more people with less space and resources than the single occupant vehicle. By providing sidewalks, bike lanes and bus only lanes and limiting automobile access we create an equitable transportation system where people are free to choose the mode that works best for them.

          • Lulz

            LOL oh the noes. 40,000 a year, many are drunk, distracted, or reckless, See you all are good at blaming machines but not the operators. But that’s a LIEberal. And we all know about the most anyone can expect from a leftist is LIES.

            You need citations for the multi taxes? Are you blind? City vehicle fees. Sales tax, tag, title, gas taxes at the pump. Property taxes too.

            You bike riders pay no taxes for the use of the roads. Start paying or get off.

          • luther blissett

            “Are you blind? City vehicle fees. Sales tax, tag, title, gas taxes at the pump. Property taxes too.”

            Oh, bless your heart. How dare the crushing hand of government levy a much lower sales tax rate than for most purchases (3%, capped at $475), FIFTY TWO DOLLARS for a title certificate, and TWENTY EIGHT DOLLARS a year for a tag.

            Words have meanings, your use of them is nonsense, and the amount of hot air you continue to generate over a THIRTY OMG DOLLAR vehicle fee could heat half the city.

          • Joe Smithy

            Lulz…start paying to use the sidewalk or get off.

          • Jay Reese

            Why is that people like you never respond directly to statements that refute your assertions but instead just continue to spew out more nonsense. There is no denying drivers are not charged the full the cost of their mode choice so please stop deluding yourself. This is not a right/left issue but one of safe and efficient transit. The goal is to move people, not cars. Cars are very ineffective in moving people compared to the active transit alternatives.

        • KRamshaw

          I agree that transit can be a much better option and that “charging people the true cost of their driving habits encourages them to seek cheaper modes of transit,” but the situation in Asheville is that downtown and downtown workers are the only ones being squeezed (while locals moan that ‘their’ downtown is no longer accessible). If we truly want transit, we have to have density, yet how many projects that add significant density get voted down because neighborhoods don’t want ‘traffic’? Why are we encouraging sprawl – which increases traffic and makes transit a less affordable and realistic option for people? A lot of downtown employees live outside the area served by transit or work hours not served by transit. If Asheville wants to be a transit city, we all need to participate – and make sacrifices. If we don’t have better transit, people need to be in their cars, and punishing downtown so that Asheville can pretend it’s doing something about transit will make life harder for downtown employees, force downtown businesses to focus on serving a tourist or upscale market (since regular locals no longer come downtown), and do nothing to make Asheville a more transit-oriented community. The cost of adding a deck is very expensive, but over time a City makes money for its investment in parking structures – not just in fees, but in the development that arises in the area and increased value as surface parking lots can be developed because there are parking alternatives for the people who live, work or visit the new project. The downtown parking garages make money – and I believe over $600,000 a year from City garage fees subsidizes transit. That money is a drop in the bucket – but more than is being contributed by other commercial centers like Biltmore Village, West Asheville, Biltmore Park or RAD. If we want transit, then we need to be honest about the costs, identify community wide sources for the funds and quit rewarding patterns of development that require more cars and more driving.

  5. Stan Hawkins

    Oh come on, you must know that all this is a “Giant Russian / GOP Collusion Caper” to “turn” all the frustrated “progressivites” in to free thinking capitalist, right?

    “I heard there was a secret meeting behind one of the structural columns inside the garage on 25 where an Australian dude met up with a British dude, who met up with a Ukranian dude, who met up with a highly ethical media dude, who then met up with the most ethical city county government anywhere, who then hired an out of state consulting firm to spend a zillion dollars to say what you folks are saying.”

    Sshhhhh! Did you know that Venezuela also raised there parking fees?

    As my grandma used to say, “ELILLBE”

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