Greed in Charleston: Downtown Meter Increases; The Latest Example

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By Mark A. Leon

Once again the debate of tourism vs. local livability continues and in a dramatic announcement, the city of Charleston will make a hard-hitting change to the downtown meter system within one month’s time that will put more pressure on our wallets as we try to enjoy the fruits of the historic Charleston peninsula.

As many know, the city of Charleston facilitated a modernizing effort adding new parking meters that allow for credit card payment, replacing the coin only machines in late 2017.? Traditional hours of metered enforcement remained at Monday – Saturday, 9:00 AM – 6:00 PM with Sunday being free for all cars.

Last week the city announced a change that will increase the cost 100% from $1.00 per hour to $2.00 and raise the enforced payment hours from 6:00 PM to 10:00 PM adding 45% more hours to the payment enforced period.

There are many that are affected by this change.? One population is the hospitality community and the locals that commute to the peninsula to work in the restaurants, hotels and retails stores.? This accounts for most of the city employees outside of the medical community.? The city has committed to opening a 175-spot parking area on Morrison Street and offering a shuttle service for these individuals.? This service will add more time and challenge to their existing commute.

The city is indicating the reason for the change is to compete with the rising costs of the parking garages who have arbitrarily raised prices to capitalize financially on the growing tourism traffic that has dominated this city.

Here are a few talking points to outline just another example of the opportunistic greed that is taking over the city of Charleston:

  • The shuttle service being offered to local workers will add an additional 40 minutes to 1 hour and 15 minutes of round trip wait and travel to the hospitality workers forcing them to add more time to their personal commute.
  • Adding a 100% increase in enforced metered cost and a 40% increase in number of hours enforced is a gratuitous example of the growing greed by the Charleston government. This is the same government that took in $1.2 million in meter revenue in 2017 alone.
  • The effort to drive residents working in the city off the streets and into this shuttle service or parking garages is an unspoken statement that the city wants these meters open for the tourists who are driving most of the inflationary and economic decisions in Charleston.
  • Justifying the cost increase to compete with the parking garages, currently at $1.00 per half hour with a max of $16.00, does not make logical urban economic sense – Parking fees and locations
    • Parking meters have limits where garages do not.
    • Parking meters leave cars outside exposing them to the elements of weather and parking garages are sheltered.
    • Street parking puts cars in more danger from being hit by moving vehicles.
    • For these reasons, the equalizing fee match does not make sense.

For Lowcountry residents, this seems like another slap in the face when dealing with the growing costs of commerce, taxation, rent and now parking that is tainting the city of Charleston.

Do you feel this fee increase and increased hours of enforcement are justified?? We would love to hear your thoughts.

The opinions of this article do not necessarily affect the decisions of this publication.? They are the expressed thoughts and commentary of the author.