It will now cost a full dollar to park in a metered space in the borough of West Chester for an hour. The increase of a quarter from the hourly rate of $.75 will generate more revenue for the borough, relieve the glut of cars competing for spaces, or both. While a lack of available parking has been a problem for some time, there is debate over its cause and solution. In a March 28 article in Chester County’s Daily Local News, Kennedy Smith, director of National Trust bank, suggested that the trend of large businesses moving out of the downtown area has indirectly led to more traffic.
It was feared that the departure of supermarkets and department stores, which have consolidated into recently developed malls and shopping centers, would cripple the local trade economy. Smith said that on the contrary, it has given rise to the “specialty stores” that line the blocks off campus, such as music stores, boutiques and antique dealers. The rarities these venues provide have attracted patrons from further distances, making it harder to find a space.
Last year the parking shortage inspired the construction of the multi-level parking garage on Sharpless Street. West Chester garages cost $1.50 an hour, an amount that has drawn widespread complaints, including those from the YMCA on Walnut and Chestnut Streets. The YMCA claims that the high cost inconveniences the Y’s members, and the Y itself, which validates parking for its employees and patrons of its daycare program. Lee Bunting, the health club’s executive director, claimed that the YMCA has lost members because of the cost of parking, but did not provide figures to support the claim.
West Chester wrote more tickets than any other borough in Chester County in 2003, totaling $76,995. Of course, West Chester University students account for a substantial portion of these violations, but they have not been spared from the impact of the lack of parking spaces. The university issues a limited number of permits to students who wish to park in the lots near their residence halls. Students living in the residential areas off-campus must be issued passes from the borough, which limits the number of passes they grant to a few per residence. Many students choose to park on South Campus and use the free shuttle buses to travel from their cars to their classes.
Some West Chester students say they are not affected by the meter increase because they do not park in metered spaces. However, if the change reduces traffic on the street, it will likely have a residual effect on parking on and near campus.
An undeclared freshman who asked not to be named worries about the effect. “Don’t blame the students. I have to find a space each day and avoid tickets like everyone else,” he said. “If the increase drives people out of the area, I’ll be happy because it’ll be easier to park. What I’m afraid of is that people who don’t want to pay for the meters will start parking around campus, where I’m trying to park.”
Senior Lester Traband does not see the parking meters as a major cause for outrage or concern. “People should just pay the extra quarter and stop whining,” said Traband.
If one thing is for sure, the new parking rates will not be welcomed as a positive solution. Downingtown Police Chief Albert McCarthy told the Daily Local News, “I’ve arrested homicide suspects that have treated me better than people getting a $1 parking ticket. Your car is your responsibility.”