Paid parking a necessary evil, with caveats
Alpena city officials are moving closer to paid parking downtown than they have in years.
We support that decision, because it’s a necessary evil.
No one likes to pay for parking. It’s frustrating and can get expensive if you work or live downtown and want to park close to your place of business or your home.
But we have to face facts. Our economy is shifting toward tourism.
Though still only about 13% of Alpena County’s overall economic output, tourism-related industries grew from about $102 million in 2001 to $156 million in 2019, according to the most recent data from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis.
Those tourists expect both a vibrant, attractive downtown to visit and a place to park when they get there.
Paid parking accomplishes both of those goals. Meters will discourage employees from staying too long in prime spots for tourists and customers of downtown businesses and will raise more money for downtown projects — including, eventually, a downtown parking garage to increase available parking slots.
We need all of those things, so we support the paid parking initiative — with some caveats.
For one, we don’t need to make things harder for our downtown employees or residents, so we call on city officials to set up some sort of permitting process that guarantees close-by parking for workers and downtown residents at a discounted price.
For the sake of those who can’t afford paid parking, we also call on city leaders to maintain at least some free parking downtown, even if it’s located in less than prime locales.
We know it’s a pain, but, without pain, there’s no gain, and we think paid parking can improve our tourism industry — which benefits all of us, with jobs and tax revenue — and our downtown for all residents and visitors.