Parking Rates Could Rise in Downtown Chapel Hill

CHAPEL HILL-The Chapel Hill Town Council is poised to increase some parking fees to make sure the town’s parking fund stays solvent.

According to the town’s business management director, the parking fund assets have declined since the closure of Lot 5, which has been subsequently redeveloped into 140 West.

The town borrowed $7.2 million dollars to build 161 public underground parking spaces in that development, and although the debt service for the project is less than anticipated, the parking fund will continue to operate in the red without a price increase.

In response, town officials suggest raising the rates for on-street metered parking on Franklin Street by 25 cents to $1.50 per hour. That rate increase will also affect parking on Mallette and Graham streets. Parking at the lot on the corner of Rosemary and Columbia will go up 20 cents to $1.50 per hour.

If approved, the rate increases will be included in next year’s budget plan.

As always, on-street parking is free after 6 p.m., lot parking is free after 8 p.m., and all downtown parking is free on Sundays.

Downtown Parking Dilemma

Recently I was able to get together with a dear friend to catch up on each other’s busy summers.  We were able to work out a day when we were both free for lunch and after some back and forth about our options we agreed we’d like to go to one of two downtown restaurants but neither of us, we agreed, wanted to “deal with parking”.

After elaborate logistical planning allowing me to do a necessary errand and then meeting to travel in only one car (to ease the parking search), my clever companion arrived to collect me.  She came with a plan, basically it was an escape route.  We agreed on one circuit through downtown looking for parking and if it wasn’t meant to be, well then, we had a Plan B, and a yummy one at that.  And one with a parking lot.  Let me say that many times Plan B has been my first choice and is very yummy separate from its convenient lot.  

I’ll jump to the end of the story because where we parked is not the point of this column.  We did one circuit and found a nearly empty lot.  We looked at each other and it was if finding an oasis in the desert.  We soon found out why it was empty between noon and 1pm on a weekday:  the broken credit card reader in the payment machine.  We scrounged enough change to get us through lunch, parked and enjoyed our luck, our lunch, and our conversation. 

Of course the point is that we had money to spend, wanted to spend it downtown and were dis-incentivized to do so.  We got past our misgivings and it worked out but notice that I considered it luck.  And the luck came from broken equipment.  

There are a few truths I must offer in the ongoing conversation about downtown and parking:

  1. My friend Dwight Bassett, Chapel Hill’s former Economic Development Officer, used to tell me there’s more public parking than ever available downtown.  I believe him.  
  2. I loved living in and near New York City where there’s no expectation of finding parking anywhere ever. It never kept me from eating in a particular restaurant. 
So why the attitude I describe above?  Part of me thinks it’s because I’m spoiled with being able to go many place by car and park- easily – for free.  But the NYC example points to the opposite; I was quite willing to use my feet, the bus and/or subway and, if in very high heels (I was young), a taxi.  I can’t resist adding here that while parking violations are quickly written in Manhattan, I don’t remember seeing tow trucks waiting for someone to cross the street in order to tow a car. 

Taken together, I’m starting to form a better understanding of the contradictions at the crux of this dilemma.  Now it’s your turn to come up with the answers!  Leave a comment below or write to me at


The emotions in my busybody took a rollercoaster ride last week for sure. So sad to hear of Cypress on the Hill closing. Now I must resume my search for homemade corned beef hash. If brunch places need to spice up their menus, let’s toss in that old school classic that Cypress had come very close to perfecting please. 

Very interested to learn about the new public parking lot at 427 West Franklin Street (between Lantern and The Courtyard) finally opening. The joy over using this lot for parking instead of something like a gorgeous tiny public greenspace reminds me that I can’t help but smile when I see the residents of Chapel Hill cruising around town in their little Priuses. Their engines are quiet enough for me to still hear the eternal kvetching about the lack of parking on Franklin Street. So much for the “free” buses and bike lanes, Chapel Hillians loooove them some free parkin’.

At the risk of inciting some contentious online chatter, I thought it might be a good time of year for a friendly reminder that the Chapel Hill Downtown Partnership offers FREE VALET PARKING at over fifteen locations on Franklin Street from East to West. Sure fancy pants places like Elaine’s and La Residence participate, but it’s not just the big ticket restaurants that extend this generous service to their customers. Mediterranean Deli, Carolina Coffee Shop and Sandwhich are just a few of the casual dining options that offer their patrons FREE VALET PARKING. Notice the all caps? Yes, I’m RAISING MY BLOGGER VOICE, because this is just another way the award winning restaurants in the heart of historic Chapel Hill serve their customers. All that great service, cold beer, fine dining and free parking? Awww, thank you! For a complete list of restaurants that participate in the FREE VALET PARKING program click here.

East End Valet Stand:  
Monday to Thursday – 5:00 PM to 11:30 PM 
Friday – 5:00 PM to 12:30 AM
Saturday – 5:00 PM to 12:30 AM 
The stand is located on the north side of the 100 block of East Franklin, in front of Spanky’s Restaurant.
West End Valet Stand:
Monday to Saturday – 5:00 PM to 11:00 PM 
The stand is located on the north side of the 400 block of West Franklin Street, near the West End Wine Bar.