Durango should identify the problem before trying to reach for solutions

The city of Durango does not have a single parking problem; it has often-conflicting parking problems. Recognizing those and who stands to win or lose should come before any attempt at answers.

For downtown merchants, the problem is twofold. They want the parking in front of their businesses available for their customers – not used by people plugging the meter all day. And they do not want their customers to have to walk too far lest they decide to spend their money elsewhere.

For them, the new meters the city is looking at make sense. They can be set to allow customers time to eat or shop but no more. And they will not allow people to add time, so the spots turn over.

At the same time, though, improving the parking situation for downtown businesses too often shoves the problem off onto residents of adjacent neighborhoods by effectively encouraging those who work downtown to park in the residential areas. That might help downtown, but not the folks who live just to the east in the neighborhood of East Third and East Fourth avenues. They have a point when they complain that they can rarely park in front of their own homes.

There are other parts of town with parking issues, near the high school for example, but those are on no one’s radar. Parking for residents of downtown, however, seems to be. But what would that look like? And how would that mesh with other agendas?

What has surfaced so far is confusing and contradictory. For downtown, the direction seems to be much higher parking rates. And, of course, a parking garage – a fantasy of the city for decades. (Never mentioned in talk of a parking garage is the question of who will park there.)

But, for nearby neighborhoods, the city offers only the prospect of increasing density with auxiliary housing units. Does that help parking? How does that even respect those neighborhoods’ concerns?

And with all the talk of the need for more parking, the city wants to reduce parking requirements for new construction if the developers provide more space for bikes or a shuttle service.

The fact is, for most residents, parking is not a problem – unless having to walk a block or so at lunchtime in the summer qualifies. But, where it is, the problem should be clearly identified and any response explained. As it is, this sounds too much like rent seeking and social engineering.