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CITY TALK: Winners, losers in parking overhaul

  • Bill Dawers

At the most recent Savannah City Council meeting, the mayor and aldermen approved many parts of a downtown parking overhaul, but they limited the changes to areas north of Liberty Street.

The results are a mixed bag.

If you work night shifts in the downtown service industry and are accustomed to parking on the street for free after 5 p.m., you’ll have to feed the meters until 8 p.m. north of Liberty Street. That will cost you $3 to $6 per night depending on where you park.

That’s a huge burden – as much as $1,500 per year – for low-wage workers, and I’m sorry that local progressives arguing for higher service industry wages didn’t speak out against the increased burden, which amounts to a regressive tax.

On the other hand, if you’re one of those impacted workers, you will still be able to park for free after 5 p.m. south of Liberty Street, and then you can walk or perhaps snag a shuttle from there.

If you’re affiliated with St. Vincent’s Academy, Congregation Mickve Israel or American Legion Post #135, you should probably thank members of council for delaying implementation south of Liberty Street.

Under the plan presented by city staff, St. Vincent’s students would have been able to buy a $160 yearly parking pass, but City Council’s exemption of areas south of Liberty Street will allow students to continue to park for free in areas close to the school, even if that impacts available parking for residents.

American Legion members will still be able to attend evening events without feeding parking meters. Congregants at Mickve Israel won’t have to pay for meters during Saturday services, so they’ll be treated the same as attendees of downtown church services on Sundays.

If you live north of Liberty Street, the extended hours of enforcement will almost certainly make it easier for you to find on-street parking in your immediate neighborhood.

But if you live south of Liberty Street, you might find it harder to park on the street on Saturdays and in the evening. It might take awhile for tourists to catch on – many of them feed the meters on weekends and at night even now – but local area residents will quickly learn that Liberty Street is the dividing line.

If you own a business in the northern half of the Historic District, the higher rates and extended hours of meter enforcement should, at least in theory, make it easier for local customers to find convenient on-street parking.

However, it seems at least as likely that the higher rates and longer hours will discourage local customers from patronizing your business at all.

I will revisit these and other issues as parts of the new plan are implemented.

City Talk appears every Sunday and Tuesday. Bill Dawers can be reached via billdawers@comcast.net. Send mail to 10 E. 32nd St., Savannah, Ga. 31401.

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