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OWENS: Street sweep schedule needs review

It’s no surprise that the busiest nights of the week in downtown Savannah are Friday and Saturday. These nights are the most popular for everyone.

It’s on these nights that you grab a drink with co-workers downtown, have a community meeting at a restaurant and celebrate major life events while enjoying your own city—and enjoying our city often means finding parking.

For on-street parking at metered spots, nearly half of that supply is gone on Friday and Saturday because of the street sweeping schedule.

The city of Savannah is artificially creating parking constraints as a result of bad policy.

Beautiful and well-maintained streets don’t just happen. It takes work. And it takes coordination, especially in the case of our street sweeping.

In fact, the city of Savannah Street Cleaning Department () website boasts 18 employees and 21 vehicles cleaning our city’s streets both day and night. The webpage goes on to extol the fact that cities across the country seek the advice of our street sweep program in Savannah.

While this department does a great job at sweeping, I can’t help but get frustrated when they sweep when demand for parking is at its highest (). Most of the nighttime sweeping along the busiest corridors of the busiest part of the city take place on the busiest nights of the week — Friday and Saturday nights.

Imagine you and your loved one are celebrating a big occasion, an anniversary. This is your night to celebrate and enjoy your own city, maybe with dinner, dancing and dueling pianos. We live in a walkable city, so you can park relatively close to downtown and walk the date night hand in hand.

First, you must find a place to park, but Friday and Saturday are the most popular times for everyone.

When you find on-street parking that’s free after 5 p.m. and on the weekends, you now must mind the times the street sweep will be coming to clean the street.

The sign posted in the middle of the block is sometimes hard to read. If it says No Parking Saturday from noon to 3:00 a.m., that makes Friday night entertainment after midnight all the more difficult—unless you want a citation.

Before you think that this is all about late night revelers, think of those who live downtown. When they come home from a long day of work, they are affected.

So, why can’t we change the sweeping schedule? Was it a schedule that was put into place long before residents and businesses called downtown home? I’ve asked the questions to leaders and haven’t gotten a good answer.

If we moved the sweeping schedule to coincide with some of our slower days in the week, it would free up a lot of those spaces during our busiest days—and ease some of the frustration of residents and businesses alike.

One of the buzzwords in Savannah is parking. Whether how to pay for new parking spots or how to charge for the old spots, parking is on the minds of people who live, work, invest and visit our historic district.

We could make an immediate impact in the number of spots that are available during our busiest times by changing the street sweeping schedule to coincide with the least busy nights.

If you’re a resident downtown, you get it. If you’re a local who likes to come enjoy what downtown has to offer, you get it. If you’re a business who wants parking spaces to welcome the customers on the busiest nights of the week, you get it.

We also get that beautiful, well-maintained streets don’t just happen. It takes work and coordination with the city, the residents and the business communities.

 

Michael Owens is president/CEO of the Tourism Leadership Council, the largest non-profit trade organization that supports and represents the tourism community. Contact Owens at or by calling 912-232-1223.

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