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Editorial: Opening up parking will help city business

Saturday, August 23, 2014
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One of the biggest problems for downtown businesses is parking for their customers.

A person who goes to a shopping mall will park half a mile away and walk another half-mile inside the building to buy something.

In a downtown environment, if they don't find a spot in front of the store — or if heaven forbid that spot requires they resurrect that driver's education staple called "parallel parking" — they'll shop elsewhere.

It's good that the city of Schenectady has that in mind in trying to revive the downtown business environment, even if it comes at the convenience of some city workers.

The city last week took out a travel lane on Clinton Street behind City Hall, removed some parallel striping from near the curb, and installed new diagonal parking spaces. That will create space for city workers who now park around the other side of City Hall on Jay Street, where there are businesses.

Those businesses have complained in the past that their customers don't have a place to park because city workers occupy all the spots during daytime business hours.

That complaint should dissipate somewhat now that the 17 or 18 diagonal spots directly in front of City Hall on Jay will now no longer be occupied all day by government workers.

The losers in this, if you can call them that, are the city workers, who now will have to park either in the new Clinton spots or in an employee parking lot located a block from the government building. Eventually, when those Clinton Avenue spots get parking meters, the mayor wants the government workers to either all use the lot or pay to park in the spots.

The desire for open parking spaces is actually a good problem for Schenectady to have. A bigger problem would be if there wasn't a demand for parking spaces. An empty space in front of a store means there are no customers there.

City officials should be examining ways to do the same thing in other parts of the city where feasible, especially in areas where redevelopment is coming but has not yet kicked in. Knowing that parking spots will be available might encourage businesses that otherwise might be wary of locating downtown.

City workers will eventually get used to parking in the city lot or in back of City Hall, although the city should not ignore their concerns about walking back there at night and in inclement weather. Perhaps more lighting for security, and/or better clearing of sidewalks in winter, would assuage those concerns.

Still, the city did the right thing by finding a way to open up more parking spots in front of the businesses that are needed for the city's economy to thrive.

 
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