Our View: City of Boise creates needless PR mess with parking flap

July 26, 2013 

downtown, boise, parking meter, city hall, parking, street

Parking meters in downtown Boise outside of City Hall.

JOE JASZEWSKI — jjaszewski@idahostatesman.com

At least for now, the Boise City Council has put a halt to plans to increase parking fees and enforcement hours. The issue is not going away, but the delay buys some time for Mayor Dave Bieter and the council to implement damage control to what has turned out to be a public relations disaster.

Judging by reactions at the public hearing Tuesday, people aren’t believing the city’s line that “it isn’t about creating more revenue.” If it isn’t about creating revenue, then how is the city going to pay for some 800 high-tech meters that are being installed?

Folks also aren’t buying the line that the city is trying to create more turnover in spaces in front of Downtown stores. If people are avoiding Downtown in droves, then turnover in parking shouldn’t be an issue.

Let the “damage control” start with getting the communications straight. High-tech meters, which allow people to use credit cards, are a good thing. If increased parking fees will pay for the meters, then say so.

Parking sensors aren’t a bad idea, either — even though the sensors will zero out any time leftover when a motorist pulls away. As city spokesman Adam Park explains, people pulling into a space with time left on the meter cannot take advantage of the 20 minutes of free parking or simply add time to the meter.

Again, the problem is communication. The issue with sensors and automatic resets came out of the blue in the middle of discussions about higher fees and increased enforcement hours. The perception is that the city is being cheap and should have more to worry about than visitors leaving a little time on the parking meter.

To compound the situation, the city didn’t bother to inform the Ada County Highway District about the installation of the sensors in ACHD’s pavement. It’s no wonder the city has such a lousy relationship with ACHD. The highway district board gave its blessing (although not unanimously) to the sensors on Wednesday, but getting information on the front end would have been nice.

There’s no excuse for the lack of communication, considering the army of public relations “experts” employed by the city.

With good communication, city officials can at least promote understanding about the parking issue. Poor communication leads to perceptions that the city is greedy and working toward scaring people away from Downtown. Poor communication also does nothing to help Downtown businesses, which have a difficult enough time competing as it is.

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