CHAPEL HILL – Quite often it’s hard to find parking in downtown Carrboro. With new development coming to the area, it might grow scarcer, and there are only a handful of free public lots. Some think Carrboro should charge people to use the lots, but some think parking should remain free.
It’s an issue that the Carrboro Board of Aldermen hopefuls tackled during WCHL’s Candidate Forum on Monday, though all were not in agreement over a solution to this complex parking problem.
The five candidates competing for three open seats include incumbents Sammy Slade, Jacquelyn Gist and Randee Haven-O’Donnell. The challengers are Kurt Stolka, Vice-Chair of Carrboro’s Transportation Advisory Board, and Al Vickers, a former member of the Solid Waste Advisory Board with a Ph. D. in environmental science. Vickers was absent from the Forum Monday due to a prior engagement out of the country.
***Listen to WCHL’s 2013 Carrboro Board of Aldermen Candidates Forum***
Stolka was the lone candidate fully in favor of charging for parking. He said it could generate revenue for the Town to use for other projects and would encourage people to use alternative methods of transportation.
“I think when we start charging for parking, that will pay for someone to enforce the parking,” Stolka said. “It will be a continuous revolution of feeding that system. That will discourage car use, and we will become a real livable city for the next generation. Cycling won’t become known as an alternative means anymore; it’ll be the main means.”
Slade, who is on the fence about the issue, said that the Town staff was currently assessing the parking situation downtown—that study is expected to be completed sometime next year.
“There’s an opportunity to really understand what the reality is about parking downtown,” Slade said. “In the same way that we were talking earlier about solid waste, [we need to] set goals for finding measures that we can implement to start ratcheting down our dependency on cars in Downtown because our ultimate goal is to get off of cars.”
Gist and Haven-O’Donnell were firmly against charging for parking and agreed that free parking helped the local economy.
Gist said that much has already been done to address the parking situation, including the Town’s purchase of the lot on the corner of Carr St. and Greensboro St., as well as the addition of 500 spaces as part of the parking deck in the 300 East Main development.
“I am not saying turn downtown Carrboro into a parking lot. I’m not saying no bikes, no buses, no feet,” Gist said. “I’m saying this has to be addressed as a whole. Our downtown businesses would be devastated if we started charging for parking.”
Haven-O’Donnell said she feared that if the Town began charging, it would decrease accessibility to residents who can’t bike or walk to the downtown area.
“We need a plan that hears the voices of the folks that live beyond the two-mile parameter. One of the things that is really important to folks that live beyond that two miles is to be able to make multitask stops,” Haven-O’Donnell said.
You can check-out our 2013 Election Central page featuring articles and audio from all the candidates, as well as forums for the Chapel Hill Town Council and the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools Board of Education.