2 hours free parking in downtown to return for holidays

emoody@beaufortgazette.comOctober 28, 2013 

The parking meters on Bay Street in downtown Beaufort are labeled as part of a customer appreciation week in this September 2012 file photo.

STAFF PHOTO

Shoppers in downtown Beaufort will be able put a little more jingle toward holiday shopping -- they won't have to drop coins in the parking meters from Nov. 29 to Jan. 1.

Fees will be waived at all paid public-parking spaces downtown for the first two hours of parking. Main Street Beaufort, USA, and Lanier Parking, the city's parking contractor, will hang gift tags on the meters to explain the program, Main Street Beaufort executive director LaNelle Fabian said.

Fabian said the new meters the city installed recently -- which accept both credit cards and change -- are expected to be painted soon. Stickers won't be used, as they have been in the past, so there is no risk of messing up the new paint job. All meters will also be decorated with festive, red bows.

To make the parking program clear, Fabian said it will be marketed not as simply two free hours, but instead as the first two hours free.

The program was approved unanimously Tuesday by City Council with little fanfare or discussion, in a stark contrast to previous years. Discussion of paid and free parking in Beaufort typically elicits quick and passionate responses from residents and business owners opposed to any cost for parking.

During the holiday seasons, the first two hours of parking will be free and drivers can pay for additional time if they wish, similar to how the program was run last year.

Parking monitors use chalk to track who has paid for additional time, so people staying longer than two hours can choose to buy additional time when they park, or they can return and pay for more.

Before 2011, meters were bagged and drivers had to move their cars after two hours to avoid a ticket.

Revenue jumped in 2011, when the meters were not bagged, to $15,386 from $6,800 in 2010. Revenue fell in 2012, however, to $10,560.

Officials said the increase in 2011 likely can be attributed to confusion about the program or drivers who fed the meters unnecessarily; the 2012 drop was because the program was better advertised.

Removing the bags has also led to a decrease in parking tickets, from 364 in 2010, to 105 in 2011 to 94 in 2012.

After paying Lanier Parking for operating the meters, 15 percent of meter proceeds go to Main Street Beaufort, USA, and 85 percent to the city's Redevelopment Commission.

During an average month in 2012, it cost $21,716 to operate the meters, which produced $34,166. Updated numbers for 2013 were not immediately available Wednesday.


Document: LaNelle Fabian's Oct. 2, 2013, letter to Scott Dadson

Follow reporter Erin Moody at twitter.com/IPBG_Erin.

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