As we noted first thing this morning, the city council's Economic Development Committee finally got around to hashing out the need for a downtown parking study, which was presented as a supplement to the Downtown Dallas 360 plan. And it passed the committee unanimously on its way to the full council for approval, which will have to OK using $150,000 in funds previously intended for DowntownDallas to subsidize downtown parking garages. But the vote didn't take place till a few council members fired off what they thought needed to be done.
The loudest of the bunch was Mayor Pro Tem Dwaine Caraway, who wants parking meters downtown vanished. Pronto.
"I really want you to hear what I'm saying, and I'm not trying to beat up on anybody," Caraway said. "We have a dead -- a D-E-A-D -- downtown. And one reason for that is because people don't want to come down and have to hustle to get a parking meter." He wrapped up his rant by asking, "Am I crazy?" He was greeted by more than a few chuckles -- though surely, the Friends of Unfair Park, who've been down this road before, would not argue with the council member.
"We are running businesses away," Caraway said. His suggestion: "Put a hood over those meters!"
He directed his colleagues' attention to Designs East, a florist at Elm Street and Central Expressway, and said businesses like that are hurt because someone can't just duck in to grab a rose. But he insisted that if the parking meters downtown were hooded, and parking was free, people would start coming downtown more often, wallets in hand.
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"How much do those parking meters cost?" he asked, referring to a slide from the presentation depicting a fancy new parking meter that takes plastic. "How much labor goes into putting those meters into the ground? How much are we gonna spend putting those new ones in the ground?"
Advocating a once-and-for-all look into fixing the parking, committee chair Ron Natinsky said that "if we approve this, and we send the consultants out to study parking, they're gonna study all aspects of parking, including meters and free meters and paid meters and advertising and whatever."
Next, Steve Salazar advocated the city try to get the owners of the parking lots and garages to "participate in the costs of the study." The suggestion didn't seem to gain much traction.
Tennell Atkins said he wanted to see what kind of studies other cities have done, while Ann Margolin said, simply, funding a parking study was a fine idea: "In looking at what we're trying to do downtown, I think this is a good use of the money."