For years, downtown Durham’s parking decks had a big loophole.
Anyone who left after 7 p.m. or on a weekend encountered a gate flung wide open, meaning no matter how long ago they had parked — even if it had been days — the stay was completely free.
That all changed July 1, was briefly reversed a week later after the ensuing “confusion and frustration” (as a Park Durham news release put it), then finally became permanent the last week of July.
Now, the city will keep gates lowered 24/7, which Park Durham said is “in keeping with industry best practices.”
The new policy first took effect the same day Durham raised its hourly and monthly parking rates, but wasn’t advertised ahead of time.
“It wasn’t properly communicated,” City Council member Leo Williams said, adding the change caught many off guard, especially restaurant and bar workers. “Nobody’s been keeping a ticket because you could get free parking forever.”
Parking is still free in downtown decks after 7 p.m. and on weekends, but now everyone leaving will have tickets checked at the exits.
“If you park on a weekday at 6 p.m. and exit at 11 p.m. the same day, your balance due will be $2.25 for the one hour from 6-7 p.m.,” the city explains on its website.
A lost ticket will cost the $24.75 daily max.
Durham installed small signs at the garage entrances explaining the new policy, although the signs are conspicuously absent at the exits, where most regular visitors first learn they’ll have to pay.
There are discounted monthly passes available for those who meet income requirements. Most of the city’s lots and decks have openings.
The prices still don’t beat the fares for GoDurham buses, which are free through at least June 2023.
Durham parking revenue dropped in COVID-19 pandemic
The city’s parking revenues dropped precipitously during the COVID-19 pandemic, from over $4 million every year since 2016 to $2 million in 2020 and $2.8 million the next year, budget documents show.
City Council member Jillian Johnson weighed in on the rate increases in a Twitter thread Sunday, noting that the parking fund has been operating at a deficit, which last year totaled $2.8 million.
“If the City doesn’t increase parking rates, that loss, subsidized by our whole community, is going to go up every year. Is it fair for all Durham’s taxpayers, many of whom are far from downtown, to pay even more each year for other people to park there?” she asked.
Downtown Durham Inc. organized a meeting Tuesday between downtown business owners and city officials to talk over the new changes.
“The people who are going to take the brunt of this parking rate increase are the workers who aren’t making that much money,” Williams said, adding they were exploring solutions for downtown workers but hadn’t yet settled on one.
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