Age-old debate on parking meters revs up again

By Charles Sercombe
What’s one subject that’s guaranteed to start an argument among city officials?
Parking.
Or, more specifically, to charge for parking on main streets or allow the public to park for free?
There are stirring arguments for both sides. One school of thought is that free parking will attract more visitors and make businesses very happy.
The other side says metered parking helps offset maintenance costs and deters freeloaders from hogging limited parking spaces all day.
The latest twist, at least in Hamtramck, is whether to replace lost or broken meters or allow free parking in city lots. Well, for now, all of the meters are staying, and then some.
The City Council agreed – except for Councilmember Cathie Gordon – to spend $18,000 to replace missing meters, mostly on the northend of Jos. Campau. For you astute observers, yes it’s no coincidence the city is focusing on the northend, where the newly built state Department of Human Services office is about to open.
DPW Supervisor Martin Ladd said he has been removing meters from that end to replace broken meters in busier parts of town. But now that the new DHS building is about to open, where hundreds of workers and clients will be coming and going, now’s the time to install meters in the area, he said.
Ladd said the cost of the meters will be paid in a year just from the traffic coming to the DHS building.
But Councilmember Gordon said the city should help relieve the parking shortage in the central Campau business district by offering free parking in city lots and transfer city parking lot meters to the northend of Jos. Campau. That way, she said, the city will not have to spend money. She said free parking in the city lots will attract business owners and employees and free up parking for customers on Jos. Campau.
Gordon’s proposal – or versions of it — has been talked about in Hamtramck for years. The counter-argument is that business owners and their employees will still hog the Jos. Campau meter spots because they want to park close to work.
And they want to keep an eye on their cars to prevent car thefts, which is something that occurs regularly at the city parking lots.
In the past, there has also been talk of building a parking deck on one of the city lots, but that idea falls apart once city officials realize that building a deck costs hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Next topic, please.

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