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.


Charleston Wish List – What is missing?

By Mark A. Leon
By Mark A. Leon

What if, just what if we had a chance to implement whatever we wanted in Charleston.? In a way, we could take our Charleston Wish List and make it a reality.

Well, we can’t exactly do that, but we can hope that some fine day in the future, we will see our wishes come true.

Here are a few things that made our Charleston wish list.? If you have others, let us know by commenting below:

  • 24 Hour / Late Night Downtown Diner – How often do you find yourself hungry late at night and there is nowhere to go where you can sit and relax?? How many times do you want to write or study over a cup of tea when you can’t sleep?? Finally, how many times do you leave a downtown Charleston bar and you shouldn’t be driving, but you do?? In Austin, New York, Chicago, Miami and many more places, the option of a late night spot for the true night owls and safety first drinkers has been incredibly successful and appreciated.? We would just like one as well.
  • Horse Race Track – We know there are legal reasons we cannot gamble in South Carolina.? We also know, Hampton Park used to be the site of a horse track.? So therefore, it is possible.? How much fun would it be to drink mint juleps and enjoy a nice day at the track more than just once a year?? I think it would be incredibly fun and relaxing.
  • Amphitheater – The rise in local homegrown music and the thirst of artists to make stops here makes this a great growth haven for music.? We also have a thriving theater scene.? Why not take advantage of the great weather, robust music and arts scene and provide an outdoor venue to showcase.? Many of you are thinking, we have the Volvo area and old Blackbaud Stadium.? Not the same for feel and acoustical quality.? Bring a little Greek style outdoor entertainment to Charleston.
  • Ferris Wheel on the pier – How many grew up with the memory of a Ferris Wheel.? Whether you were in London, Chicago, Jersey shore or Myrtle Beach, Ferris Wheels and water seem to just go together well.? I would love to add that decor to the Charleston beach life.
  • Themed Photo Booths – Why don’t we have photo booths situated throughout the French Quarter on Market, East Bay and on the Upper side by Marion Square.? We have tourists, lots and lots of tourists.? They love creating memories.? What better memories than themed photo booths with different backgrounds to print and share with friends and loved ones.? It’s appeals to our historic side as well.
  • Drive-In – For those true locals, you remember the 1950’s and the old Savannah Highway Drive-in.? I bet you even miss it.? Wouldn’t it be great to get take out, some wine and a comfy blanket and enjoy a night under the stars without driving to Beaufort?? That sounds amazing.? Maybe even play it a little catch before the movie and then later on doze off for a bit during the boring scenes.? How nice does that sound?
  • Classic Movie Theater – We have the American Theater.? Love the venue and location.? We would love to have a restored movie theater there or another location that only shows classic films.? Watching Cary Grant and Kathrine Hepburn or Rhett and Scarlett on a date night is truly romantic.
  • Digital Meters with Credit Card Option – I know there are discussions in works.? I know Raleigh, NC and Beaufort, SC have them and they work.? I can’t speak for everyone, but I rarely have change.? I mean rarely.? We hope this becomes a reality, because it is a progressive step forward.

Share with us your own personal wish list.

Solving Those Charleston Parking Meter Blues The SmartCard Way

By Minta Pavliscsak

With around 1,800 parking meters in downtown Charleston one might think that finding an available one wouldn’t be that difficult. The trick is not so much in finding a meter, yet the trickiness comes in finding the right meter. The right meter being one that is closest to wherever you are going, and vacant at the exact time you need it.

You have made it downtown Charleston with only moments to spare before you have to get to where you need to be. The streets are lined with cars and you begin to feel that pressure of being late, again, because of parking. You circle around for at least 10 minutes before the miracle of an empty spot appears, and lucky for you it is right in front of where you’re going. You check everywhere you keep your meter money, but it’s running low and all you come up with are three dimes and a nickel. With a sigh, you get out of your car, throw the money in the meter, and as you are walking down the sidewalk you say a little prayer to the parking gods asking them to keep the meter maid away from your spot for just a little while longer.
We can’t promise primo parking, but we can solve the dreaded meter money issue with the City of Charleston SmartCard!

What is a SmartCard?
A SmartCard replaces the need of meter money. It is the size of a credit card and adorned with one of Charleston’s beautiful iconic symbols. It can be used at any of the parking meters in downtown Charleston. It works essentially like a gift card. After you pay the onetime fee of $5 for the SmartCard, you can load money onto the card. Once parked at a meter, you insert the card into the meter and be on your way. The meter deducts money from the card in exchange for time.

What makes the SmartCard so awesome?
It’s super convenient! Now I only have to keep a single card in my car. I no longer think of a quarter as being worth 20 minutes of downtown parking. It’s now worth .25 cents just like it should be.
It’s economical. You can actually get back unused time with your SmartCard. You know that feeling you get when you are ready to go but there is still 45 minutes left on your meter? You don’t have to worry about overfeeding the meter anymore. Just insert the card again and it refunds the remaining time right back onto your card.
It makes an awesome gift. We all have that person who’s difficult to buy for. Hook him or her up with some parking time! Trust me, they will be grateful.
It never expires. There is no time frame within which you need to use the money you have loaded onto the SmartCard. You can load up to $300 to your card.

How do I use a SmartCard?20151030_092135 (1)
It’s easy! Just insert the card into the diagonal slot the diagonal just to the left of where those pesky coins go. After a few seconds it will begin adding time to your meter in 20 minute increments, up to the maximum allotted time. When you return to the meter, if you have any time left simply reinsert the card and that money will be put back onto your card. The cards are made so that the meter only accepts yours while it is running. This prevents anyone else from stealing time, and money off of your meter. These cards are specific to Charleston and cannot be used anywhere else.

Where can I purchase a SmartCard?
Cards can be purchased for $5 at the Charleston Visitor Center Gift Shop on Meeting Street, or at the City of Charleston Department of Revenue Collections – Parking Division on Lockwood Drive. When you need to add more money to your card, you have to do so at one of these two places as well.

No more hoarding quarters and other ever coveted meter money. No more running to your car because you were short on change and you know the meter is about to expire. No more parking tickets!*

*You still have to adhere to the time limit of the meter you are parked at. Charleston Daily is not responsible for any parking tickets you may receive. Sorry folks.