Durham parking meters continue to irk downtown visitors
Posted April 17
Durham, N.C. — Nearly two months in, paid parking in downtown Durham still has its growing pains.
The city converted about 1,000 on-street parking spaces throughout downtown to metered parking with a two-hour limit after a study recommended the change. But some people complain about the inconvenience the meters create.
After the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival two week ago, director Deidre Haj said she got several emails from attendees angry about the difficulty parking downtown and the inability to attend screenings because they would have to leave part way through a film to feed the meter.
"You cannot get back and pay your meter. It makes the system feel rigged," Haj said in an April 13 email to City Councilman Steve Schewel. "I believe we need another solution for when festivals are being held, which will allow for the city to keep its parking revenue but perhaps more fairly, with different time limits. If people do not attend, everyone loses."
Full Frame hasn't totaled up its attendance numbers yet, so it's unclear whether parking issues actually affected turnout and revenue.
Still, city officials plan to discuss what they can do to help with parking for daytime special events.
"Durham continues to experience significant growth that has increased the demand for parking [in] its downtown area," city parking administrator Thomas Leathers said in a statement. "The City is committed to working collaboratively with special event and festival organizers to meet the evolving needs of these stakeholders and to better inform them of alternative parking and transportation options."
Bonnie Axelrod, who has lived in Durham for 20 years, said she has found the new paid parking system frustrating when she's tried to use it.
"It does produce some anxiety. Even when I was leaving the house, it’s like, 'OK, where am I going to park?'" Axelrod said, adding that the time limit discourages people from browsing through shops and spending money downtown.
Nora McCloskey said she walks from her home to locations downtown but often has to budget an extra 15 to 20 minutes for friends she is meeting downtown to find parking.
"I feel like there are times where, you look at your watch, you see what time it is, and you’re like, 'Yeah, forget it. Let’s not go downtown. It’s going to be a mess,' and we go elsewhere," McCloskey said.
The revenue generated by the meters is earmarked to build a new parking gaarge downtown and to improve security and access at existing parking facilities.