Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Drive (and park) at your own risk

My home city of Lexington, Kentucky has always struggled with finding an identity for its downtown area.  When I was a kid I remember the phrase "urban renewal" being thrown about pretty regularly, and gradually a few new office buildings, a couple of hotels and Rupp Arena, home of the Kentucky Wildcats basketball team, all were built.  A few other developments have taken place in the the thirty years since all of that development, but not all that much.  But things appear to be moving along now.


The catalyst?  An upcoming event called the World Equestrian Games.


Now, to be fair, I'm not a devotee of equestrian sports.   My understanding is that this series of events involves a great deal of training and dedication, and I do not wish to demean anyone who participates in this sport.  But the Lexington area is making significant investments in infrastructure in order to accommodate the large numbers of visitors (competitors and spectators, one would assume) who are expected to visit the area during this event.


As a result several major thoroughfares look like war zones at present.  One major artery has had several blocks between the University of Kentucky campus and downtown Lexington closed for months, while work was performed on storm sewers and other utilities.  And just today I found lanes closed on three different streets, making it difficult to escape the downtown area, where I lunched with a friend.


That brings me to the fly in the ointment for today.


I learned today that in 1983 the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government set up provisions for a downtown parking authority.  Apparently this concept is popular in other cities, but this was completely obscure until 2008, when the authority came into reality and began charging exhorbitant rates for metered parking.


Why do I know this, you ask?  Because I got a parking ticket today.


Yes, I inserted well over a dollar of coins to ensure that I was parked legally on a side street adjacent to the site of today's lunch.  As my friend and I emerged from the restaurant I saw a parking enforcement worker ("meter maid" is a little outdated, I would think) and I actually commented to my friend that I hoped I got to my car before did.  I then heard laughter as this parking person walked away from me down the street.


And then I arrived at my car and saw something stuck in the windshield wiper.  A citation for $15.  Turns out that the chap who enforces parking on that street---a street upon which mine was the ONLY car parked when I arrived and when I left--had, in fact, arrived on the scene no more than two minutes before I did.


$15.


That's not all.  The citation goes on to say that if it's not paid in ten days, the fine DOUBLES.  Instructions were provided on appeals and such, and there was a phone number, so in order to allow myself time to cool off a bit I elected to wait until I arrived back at home before calling.


When I called I spoke with a pleasant woman, who after hearing me rattle on for a minute or two suggested that I speak with her manager.  He came on the line and was a little too chipper for my liking, and apparently had heard all of this before....the outrage of paying so much for metered parking and STILL getting a ticket.  How this discouraged people from visiting downtown.  How it would be a LONG while before I parked at a meter unless I had absolutely no choice.


This fellow then explained to me that the Lexington Parking Authority, or LexPark, is a self-supporting entity, and that their existence is owed to the merchants of Lexington's downtown area.  Turns out that these merchants apparently felt that too many office workers were hogging up all of the parking meters, as that's cheaper than buying a monthly spot, so these merchants BEGGED the city leadership to put something in place to reverse the trend.


If you're a resident of the Lexington area and find this parking nonsense as disagreeable as I do, the executive director of LexPark is Gary Means.  He can be reached at 859-231-PARK.


Well, now that I've had my "get off my lawn" moment, I feel so much better.

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