There was an unusually contentious community meeting Tuesday night, and the issue, as usual, was parking.
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In the last few years in the overly crowded First District, parking has been right up there with trash and crime on the list of hot-button issues in our neighborhoods.
As Councilman Jim Kraft has been saying for years, the First District has too many cars and two few spaces to put them in.
He’s right. But that doesn’t absolve him of the responsibility to do something about it.
So far, the Transportation Department has been going the wrong way on this issue—actually removing parking spaces from public streets. DOT posted No Parking signs in Fells Point last year that eliminated dozens of spaces which are perfectly safe and usable for parking, and on Conkling Street it eliminated 33 percent of parking spaces by installing reverse-angle parking.
So it seems to me that Step One for Councilman Kraft is to tell DOT to stop being silly and restore the spaces in Fells Point and on Conkling Street. It can be done.
Step Two should be to restrict the spread of Residential Permit Parking (RPP), a program that assumes that residents of a particular block have a greater right to the street frontage than other citizens—including small business owners, who arguably have a greater investment in the community than renters and homeowners.
Baloney. Whatever happened to equal rights to public accommodations?
Not to mention the size, or should we say outsize, of the fine? A ticket for RPP violation is $52. You can block someone’s garage or park in a no-stopping zone like the dozens of idiotic ones in Fells Point, for a mere $32. Bargain!
A major issue at last week’s community meeting was Area 43, a little RPP district that popped up west of the Can Company without anyone outside Area 43 noticing till it was too late. The RPP area allows six permits per address—four stickers and two guest passes.
The average width of a Canton rowhouse is 14 feet.
The average length of a compact car is 15-1/2 feet.
The arithmetic is pretty easy.
Predictably, residents of blocks next to Area 43 have asked to be included, since many cars that used to park in Area 43 no longer can, so they park as close as possible.
Merchants in O’Donnell Square have begun to notice, and they are working to limit the growth of RPP.
A vibrant neighborhood depends on good business just as much as it depends on committed residents and homeowners. You need a mix for a healthy neighborhood.
That said, some of the businesses in O’Donnell Square have an outsized impact on the area when it comes to parking. A few of the restaurants have 80 employees or more. That’s a lot of parking for employees.
What Canton really needs is a parking garage. But it won’t get a parking garage in the forseeable future because of cost. Businesses could help by encouraging their employees to live close, car pool or take public transit to work. Residents could help by reaching for parking solutions that don’t exclude their neighbors in business. Those businesses are a big part of what makes the neighborhood a great place to live.
by Jacqueline Watts