Letter: Please, No Parking Meters

In last week’s Paper, it was reported that the village Planning Board will consider whether to install parking meters at the municipal parking lot on Fair Street once paving and line-painting are complete. I write to express my sincere hope that the board will once again step away from the thoroughly unpopular idea of metering Cold Spring’s parking for all the reasons that this idea has been shot down in the past — and more.

As the merchants of Cold Spring are glad for good weather every weekend to welcome hikers and antique hunters to Cold Spring, the four-hour and five-hour parking durations on Main Street and the cross-streets provide the necessary mix of an invitation to stay (and spend) a while and the need to move these visitors on (or at least into some other space) so that others can have their chance.  Why discourage these visitors with the additional cost and hassle of feeding meters or — much worse — dealing with a parking ticket when the meter expires?

And since the current plan seems to be to meter only those spaces at the edge of town (in the municipal lot), how much more trouble are we asking our visitors to deal with when they are running down Fair Street every few hours to put in additional payments or rushing to move their car before a meter expires?  And why would someone pay to park at the edge of town when she could park right on or off of Main Street for free?  This differential cost arrangement will only worsen the parking crunch in the downtown village, as drivers hunt ever more persistently and aggressively for the free spaces.

What are the locals supposed to do when snow is on the way and they are directed to put their cars in the municipal lot at the specified time? Remember last winter when the snow was up to people’s car doors in that lot and no one could back out for days? When do the meters kick back in? When the plows have finished their job (of pushing the snow up under people’s bumpers)? When the snow melts enough to drive safely away? When the driver of a legally snow-parked car gets around to moving his vehicle?

Please, village planners, no meters in the municipal lot — or anywhere else in Cold Spring.

Jacqueline Foertsch
Cold Spring

7 thoughts on “Letter: Please, No Parking Meters

  1. Installing parking meters on Main Street is the best, and only practical, way of improving access to parking in that business district. The 2008 Parking Committee, appointed by the Special Board for a Comprehensive Plan, recommended that pay and display type meters be installed on Main Street, Depot Square, and the Municipal lot, and projected the net income (after leasing expenses, maintenance, and additional enforcement) would amount to about $200,000 per year.

    Parking meters have been proven in thousands of communities worldwide, over the past 80 years, to make spaces available by increased turnover.

    Metering the municipal parking lot alone, given the increased traffic from hikers, is probably a good idea. Short term, the Village should also sell permits to Village residents to park in the Municipal lot (excepting snow days). The Municipal lot on Fair Street should not be a free overflow lot for residents; it is meant to be for visitors.

    • I wonder how many members of the Parking Committee have real-life experience when it comes to having a brick-and-mortar shop in a business district. I have had shops in Peekskill, Cortlandt Manor, Carmel and now Cold Spring and can tell you something about parking, especially in Peekskill where there was metered parking in front of my shop.

      First of all, parking was free on Saturday and Sunday so that was a big plus. I think that most places have free parking on the weekends and I find it hard to believe that visitors are going to take too kindly to having to pay for parking on the same days that it is normally free in other municipalities where they shop.

      Second, the metered parking probably cost us more in lost customers than we made by forcing people to feed the meters. Very often customers would end up getting a ticket not just for an expired meter, but also for an expired inspection or registration sticker. When they saw the fines, they stopped coming back to shop.

      And why should they? Today brick-and-mortar stores are about to go the way of the dinosaur. We are taking hits from every big box store on the internet (can anyone say “Amazon”?) as well as the malls on Routes 6 and 9. Consumers have an infinite number of choices when it comes to shopping and most of them now prefer to buy their stuff from a screen, in the comfort of their own home and have it delivered right to their front door without worrying about parking or anything else.

      If Cold Spring decides to make it any more difficult or unpleasant for our customers to shop here, they will be putting another nail in the coffin of the businesses that are contributing to the local economy. Can you really afford that?

      • The 2008 Parking Committee members spoke with many of the merchants, and welcomed comments from all of them. My guess is that a majority favored (and favor) the kind of meters we proposed for Main Street (pay and display, very different from the ones you are familiar with).

        Meters create access to parking spaces, and have been proven over and over again to boost business. They work on basic marketing supply and demand principles. They are the only practical way to make time limits on spaces effective. They will finally solve the problem of merchants and their employees taking precious customer spaces.

        Frankly, the Village has tried everything else — why not try something that has a chance of actually working? — and will add $200,000 to Village net income to pay for desperately needed capital improvements.

  2. As a Main Street merchant, I think this is an excellent point about the parking meters and agree with Jacqueline that meters are not necessary nor are they desirable.

    If you look at the big picture, parking is only an issue two days a week (Sat. and Sun.) and nine months of the year. January, February and March are pretty dead, even on weekends, and there are few tourists if any. So we are talking about less than 100 days a year, several hours a day, where there could be a potential problem.

    Here are two simple things that could be done that would help matters immensely and that don’t cost anything. First, how about letting people park in all those prime spaces on central Main Street that are currently reserved for the part-time PD and other Village employees who don’t work on the weekends.

    Second, a four-hour time limit is way too long, plus it is hard to enforce. It makes sense to put a two-hour limit on all those spaces that are now marked “4 hours” and make sure that the police ENFORCE the time limit. This would help to move people around while still giving them plenty of time to shop and eat.

    Like I said, simple and cost effective.

    • Actually, parking space occupancy is more complicated. The Parking Committee actually counted spaces and tracked occupancy at different times of day and different days of the week, and based meter revenue projections using conservative seasonal adjustments. There are commuter flows into and out of the Village, flows during lunch time, flows during church services, flows during events; weather affects flows; timing of holidays affects flows. We all know this.

      Meters make time limits enforceable. Marking tires almost never works well (see Donald Shoup’s “The High Cost of Free Parking” for a detailed review of enforcement issues nationwide) — and this has never worked for the Village. It makes no difference if the time limit is two hours or four, if we have learned anything in the past 30 years it is that time limit enforcement in the absence of meters is a bad idea.

  3. If the Village has financial problems such that it doesn’t have enough money for its expenses, putting meters on every available space in town won’t make a difference. In fact, it will make matters worse because they will lose their biggest income stream which is coming from the commercial tax base on Main Street. Like every other municipality, the answer is never to cut expenses; rather, it’s to figure out ways to get more money from the citizens.

    • First, the proposal is not to put meters on every available parking space, but on Main Street spaces where they will improve access.

      Second, the commercial tax base on Main Street is far from the Village’s main income stream; most property taxes are based on residences outside the business district, and none of the sales taxes go to the village. This is not to say that the business district is not important (as some would argue), because a healthy business community boosts overall property values in the Village.

      I have frequently urged the Trustees to cut expenses (consolidation of police, improvements to garbage collection, etc.), but the village should not neglect revenue sources — especially when they are non-property tax based, as the $200,000 in net income from meter revenue would be.