CARRBORO – The Carrboro Board of Aldermen began their discussion on the future of parking in the town with a work session largely focusing on how to handle the potential influx to the town’s municipal lots.
“People like to joke when they learn that I’m the Mayor of Carrboro by asking whether I can fix their parking tickets,” says Mayor Mark Chilton. “The answer is, if you mess up so bad that you get a parking ticket in the Town of Carrboro, there is nothing that I can do to help you.”
The abuse of the town’s free lots was one of the largest concerns raised by the Board. Chilton says UNC’s decision to charge $250 for park and ride lots to the University beginning in the fall could cause students, faculty and staff to try and park in one of Carrboro’s lots.
A 2008 study on parking in the town found that around 20 percent of those parking in the municipal lots were parking for more than three hours despite the fact that most town lots have a two hour limit.
But what should the town do to deter people from not using the lots as intended?
One option to help curb illicit use of the town’s free lots is to increase enforcement with the hiring of an on-site attendant. But Aldermen Damon Seils says any enforcement or payment plan must make sense for the town.
“We know that parking and provision of parking costs money,” says Seils. “We know that enforcing parking costs, and especially enforcing copious free parking, costs. It seems to me that the direction that we are going in is actually the costliest way about doing this and it doesn’t come with any of the benefits that we would acquire from another approach.”
Seils specifically cited private towing companies and the Town of Chapel Hill as potential partners in an enforcement plan—neither of which he is particularly fond of.
Another suggested option was for the town to charge for parking. But Aldermen Jacquelyn Gist says that would only make it tougher for local businesses downtown.
I’ll give you a study—just walk down Main Street and talk to the people that own the businesses and ask them if they want you to charge for parking,” says Gist. “Then walk down Franklin Street and ask people why their restaurant is going under, and that will be one of the top two reasons.”
Aldermen Randee Haven O’Donnell adds that free parking also encourages those from the outskirts of town to enjoy some of the restaurants and shops located more centrally in the downtown
“I really support free parking,” says O’Donnell. “For folks who are further out, this is their town too. When we had the Open Streets, a lot of folks came in from north of Homestead [Rd]. How did they get there? They drove—they drove to be on an open street. Check that out.”
Aldermen Sammy Slade introduced a motion which stipulated that the town would formulate a “downtown parking plan” with the town’s stated values as well as the monetary and staff resources that enacting the plan would entail.