Our View: At first blush . . .

Posted: March 1, 2014

For oh, say, the past 20 years, The Star has made its opinion abundantly clear about downtown parking meters. We’d like to see them go — and not just in Winchester, but in any city or town that feels the need to keep them.

Needless to say, our campaign has met with little success, particularly here in Winchester. But, like the mythological Sisyphus (albeit without his venality), we keep pushing this stone up the hill.

Thus, one might assume we would greet the prospect of expanding meter hours to Saturday — as suggested by a city Parking Authority stakeholders committee — with a reflexive “Uh-oh!” Not so. Though we do look at anything suggesting heightened enforcement with a typically jaundiced eye, we do understand why, in this case, the authority may believe prescription is in order.

Simply stated, once Friday meter hours are done, downtown residents park their cars in metered spaces, for upwards of the entire weekend, thereby crowding out retail patrons of downtown. Should the city realize its aim of fashioning a more “livable” downtown, thus achieving a critical residential mass, this problem would only intensify.

No action was taken on the stakeholder study at Thursday’s Parking Authority meeting, but we feel certain WPA Chairman Dick Helm will give it all measure of due diligence — and perhaps advance an ordinance change extending the meter hours to Saturday.

Needless to say, we have our reservations — standard (the presence of meters makes for a less inviting downtown) as well as issue-specific (is such a move cost-effective; will it require additional personnel; how many other cities have metered parking on weekends?). Mr. Helm and his colleagues, we believe, will scrutinize such matters carefully.

And as they are doing so, may we offer a suggestion: Before going whole-hog on any such change, why not institute a pilot policy of two hours of free (non-metered) Saturday parking and monitor it closely.