The original parking plans for downtown Kent called for the City to install the new downtown parking meters in the Fall of 2014 but as the days started to inch closer into the peak holiday shopping season we decided to delay the change in parking until Spring 2015 so as to not create any confusion for customers in the busiest time of year for downtown merchants.
As winter seemed to drag on unmercifully, I think we all began to wonder if Spring was every going to arrive but as we close out April, we’ve decided to officially declare it Spring — so our crews are busy installing the new meters this week (with a little help from Mayor Fiala, see below).
It’s sort of a public infrastructure version of a “soft” opening where we make sure everything gets installed properly and we can test run it before it officially goes live.
When the meters go live on May 5th we plan to have our parking enforcement “work” with folks that use the meters for a couple of weeks to make sure everyone has a handle on how they work.
Along with the meter rollout this week, City crews are also passing out fliers to the downtown merchants and their customers that offer a little history of parking meters in downtown Kent and explain why they are making a comeback now.
We get that the knee-jerk reaction to the notion of parking meters is to assume it’s some sort of “get rich” scheme” for the City to “line the coffers with new parking revenues.” But honestly, meters don’t make enough to pay for themselves and the idea of the return of parking meters came from downtown merchants who watched their potential customers circle the block, driving by their store looking for parking spaces because the prime parking in front of their store was being used by day-long parkers who work downtown.
For years the City has tried to use the traditional “chalk the tire” enforcement tactic to get the day-long parkers to move-along and free up those prime spots for customers but chalk is far from foolproof and it still relies on a sense of civic responsibility that unfortunately hasn’t always been evident and those day-long parkers routinely “beat the system” — to the chagrin and demise of the local shops that need those parking spots to survive.
With so much investment to bring new stores into downtown Kent, and so many new stores opening up over the last couple of years, the issue of prime time parking took on a higher level of concern which ultimately led the merchants to ask for the City’s help with the return of parking meters.
Parking meters aren’t fool-proof either but they have proven to be more effective than tire chalking so we’re certainly willing to give meters a try again for the current generation of shop owners.
The new meters are easy to use and here’s a video link that shows just how easy.