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Parking made easier

I often like to highlight a cartoon image I found not too long ago about parking. It shows a cowboy on a horse slowly making his way up to his favorite saloon. But, there’s already a horse tied up outside the establishment and the horse is standing parallel to the front of the building. There’s nothing else in sight. The cowboy mutters, “Great, he took up two spaces, now where am I supposed to park?”

When I visit with individuals about downtown Duluth, somehow, parking always becomes a hot topic. Like many central business districts with a critical mass of people, there is a need to have regulations and restrictions for on-street parking. Otherwise human nature would take over and those valuable spots would be claimed for the day by the first to arrive.

But, we do have some great initiatives that are making parking easier and more convenient in our downtown waterfront district. First of all, there’s free weekend parking. Yes, it’s important to keep reminding our fine readers that parking on the street at the meters and kiosks is free on the weekends. The only restriction is that time limits are enforced. That means if you park at a two-hour meter, you are welcome to stay there for two hours for free. We encourage the enforcement of time limits to allow a turnover so that many different customers can enjoy this great offer.  

Additionally, we are currently gaining feedback from our business community about the amount of time programmed on meters. Should we have it consistent across the district? Obviously, there is always a need for short-term 15-minute meters in some areas and that would remain the case.  And, there are some areas further from the core of the downtown that have longer term meters and those would remain. But the City of Duluth is collecting feedback to see if all 80-minute meters should be turned into 120-minute meters. This would make our parking regulations more consistent and it would give customers a longer stay.

On the flip side, we need to be cognizant that some of our businesses want to make sure there is enough turnover throughout the day so that their customers find available parking. It is a balancing act, but one that can be met. And in the end, it is hoped that it will be a win-win for businesses and customers.

Finally, new technology should be on its way to make it easier than just carrying quarters for the meters. It’s hoped that we’ll be able to add more pay-by-phone options in the near future.

And most importantly, remember, there are plenty of parking ramps that allow for extended stays and make your visit to the downtown hassle-free. We also work with many of our members to provide validated Park Plus coupons so their customers can park at a discounted rate or for free in a ramp. Take advantage of it!

Kristi Stokes

Kristi Stokes is the president of the Greater Downtown Council in Duluth. Contact her at 727-8549.