The lack of common sense by the Eugene City Council never fails to amaze me. The Register Guard reported that the City Council voted 6-2 on August 11th to remove downtown parking meters from a 12 block area of downtown for a two year trial basis. This would cost the City an estimated $220,000 a year in lost parking revenue. The 12 block parking oasis will extend from Willamette Street to the east, Lincoln Street to the west, Seventh Avenue to the north and 11th Avenue to the south.
Besides the extreme financial loss of a third of Eugene’s parking revenue, this decision has dire implications for how this city will view environmental and transportation issues. Parking meters provide the only financial incentive the City has to promote busing and biking. Without a 75 cent per hour disincentive, people now have almost zero financial reason to the the bus or bike into downtown. The financial windfall that this will bring is extremely overstated by the pro business city council. Most restaurant business activity comes from people working downtown or post 6 PM when a parking meter isn’t relevant.
If Eugene is to truly have a vibrant downtown, attempting to increase retail activity on the supply side isn’t the solution. An increase in downtown housing is the only longterm solution. There is far too much retail competition from the Valley River Center and Oakway Center to depend on people driving into downtown to meet their shopping needs. Eugene should put the parking meter money it generates, or should I say generated, into a bond account that will go towards incentives to develop downtown housing. They should particularly focus on college student housing. Downtown, with all its amenities, bars and close proximity to the University of Oregon, is an ideal place for college students to live. A vitalized downtown won’t occur with a few more people driving; it takes a large increase in the number of people living in the downtown core.