This summer, two major parking lots downtown will no longer be free.
The city of Bend will eliminate free parking in its two Mirror Pond parking lots this summer and install an electronic “pay and display” system instead, Jeff Datwyler, the city’s downtown manager, announced Wednesday at a meeting of the Bend Downtowners Association.
Currently, the city allows two hours of free parking in the lots, which are on the north and south sides of the Mirror Pond Gallery on Brooks Street. Users who stay longer are required to pay $1 for each additional hour by inserting money into a nearby drop box.
Datwyler said by eliminating free parking in the lots, it will force employees to park elsewhere, freeing up space for visitors who are likely to spend money in downtown businesses. Datwyler said the average retail customer stays downtown for 90 minutes.
I think this is a terrible, terrible idea. In my opinion one of downtown Bend’s great strengths is the free-for-two-hour parking that we have everywhere, even if it is (ab)used by people who work downtown. It makes it easy and inviting to visit, and more likely for visitors to spend money there… whereas, I think converting those lots to paid parking will have the opposite effect: visitors will be less likely to spend money downtown—if they even stay downtown because they can’t find free (and quick and easy) parking.
Duncan nails it (and even has a comment already proving my previous point):
I really, really hate this idea.
"Datwyler said by eliminating free parking in the lots, it will force employees to park elsewhere, freeing up space for visitors who are likely to spend money in downtown businesses."
Park elsewhere? Gee, I wonder where? Maybe where there is FREE PARKING?
Visitors likely to spend money? You mean tourists, don’t you? What about destination customers who want to park, go in and do their business, and leave? Not spend 90 minutes browsing downtown shops?
So this will just guarantee that no one who actually lives here will actually shop in downtown Bend? (It’s bad enough, already.)
…In any event, I don’t think it will work. The people who move their cars every two hours (known by all as, ‘parking tag’) aren’t going to change now…they’ll just move the arena to the rest of downtown — to the parking spots on my street, for instance, to the spots in front of my store!
Something I didn’t see mentioned: what about the Farmer’s Market during the summer? It’s held every Wednesday right there at the top of Drake Park adjacent to the Mirror Pond parking lot, and all those vendors use the parking lot to load/unload their products (and park). Will there be a special exemption made for them? Or will they be charged (something I could certainly see making them move the Farmer’s Market elsewhere)? What about other festivals/events?
Overall, I’m not against paid parking—but I think if Bend wants to go that route, there should be new lots built instead of converting the existing (and already scarce) downtown free parking to paid.
Funny how all the business owners and visitors quoted in the above article don’t like the idea. Add me to that group, too.