\The 2-hour parking limit signs will be coming down soon. And the prospect of parking meters being imposed upon an unwilling downtown by the City of Salem has vanished. Free unlimited parking has become the law of downtown.
Salem’s Downtown Parking District has unlimited, free parking for the first time in decades.
City councilors on Monday voted in favor of adopting an initiative that eliminates parking time-limits and bans the installation of parking meters in the Downtown Parking District.
Salem City Manager Linda Norris said the changes would go into effect immediately.
Today I was happy to see "We Won!" signs in the windows of businesses that supported the successful Stop Parking Meters Downtown citizen initiative.
The dotted box message, "This business pledges to save on-street parking for customers," points to the biggest potential problem facing the new City parking policy: having spaces filled with cars belonging to downtown business owners and their employees.
But a ban on employee parking has been in effect for a long time. The City has been lax in enforcing it. So likely some employees have been moving their cars from block to block every two hours, which isn't that difficult.
The signs being distributed by Stop Parking Meters Downtown leader Carole Smith and her associates are a great idea. They reflect a psychological truth: people are motivated by more than individual self-interest.
We Homo sapiens are social creatures. We want to get along with our fellow humans. We want to do the right thing. But sometimes we need some nudging (a trendy theory).
Nudge theory (or Nudge) is a concept in behavioral science, political theory and economics which argues that positive reinforcement and indirect suggestions to try to achieve non-forced compliance can influence the motives, incentives and decision making of groups and individuals alike, at least as effectively – if not more effectively - than direct instruction, legislation, or enforcement.
Moving to free unlimited downtown parking is a fascinating social experiment. I'm optimistic about what the results will be. It feels right for Salem.
I'm well aware that parking meter proponents have their arguments for why automotive access needs to be rationed, restricted, controlled, optimized. But this isn't a deterministic science like Newton's laws of motion.
There should be as much art involved in parking policies as science. Every situation is different. Salem's historic downtown has a history, character, and vibe distinct from any other area in the world. What works in other places may not suit us, and vice versa.
For sure, problems with the new parking policies will arise. The City of Salem, the Stop Parking Meters Downtown folks, and downtown businesses need to work together in a collaborative manner to resolve them.
Here's a fresh off the You Tube "press" video interview with Carole Smith by Dave of DowntownSalemBusinessDistrict.com. Like he and the sign I photographed says, implementing the citizen initiative is a big win for downtown.
KGW television in Portland did a story on "Salem ditches metered and hourly parking." Nice to hear at the end that city councillors are committed to making this policy work.