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editorial - mail - 1/22/02

January 24, 2002

Parking garage not only way to ease downtown congestion 1/22



Faced with a shortage of parking downtown, the Martinsburg, W.Va., City Council had considered building a parking garage, but backed off when the first estimate came back at $2 million-plus. There are other possibilities, however, that could add to the number of spaces available on the street.

The parking garage estimate came from Brad Edwards of Edwards Neff, Inc., an Atlanta firm that's doing a parking study of the downtown area. After delivering the bad news on the price of that option, Edwards said that getting long-term parkers out of downtown would be a cheaper means to the same end.

One way to do that would be to create free, all-day parking areas on parts of Burke, Martin, King, John and Stephen streets that are away from the downtown area. Another possibility would be to work out agreements to get churches to open their lots to the general public during the week.

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The church suggestion would work better if those who parked there had stickers or cards on their rear-view mirrors, so that if there were problems - a double-parked auto or one leaking anti-freeze - the owner could be identified and called.

As for the meters, we disagree with the suggestion to raise the cost to 50 cents per hour. A charge like that may be acceptable on a pay lot or parking garage, but not on a public street.

The general public would be more likely to accept creation of a few spaces in each block with 30-minute- only meters. That would ensure quick turnover and allow people who have a quick pick-up to do it without walking a long distance.

For the long term, the council should also look into creating a shuttle lot that could be used by shoppers and downtown employees alike.

For a small charge, a bus or van running every hour or half hour could keep more cars out of downtown and cut down on the number of parking tickets, which tend to instantly erase any good feelings that visitors to the downtown area may have gotten.

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