We all know parking on the peninsula is a nightmare aside from the price. Add an extra dollar per hour, extend the paying period to 10 p.m., with hundreds of angry Charlestonians and you’ve got a catastrophe. According to one of Mayor John Tecklenburg’s advisers, the main purpose of the meter changes is to improve the way the peninsula’s parking system functions. But workers and residents question how this change will benefit the city, and more importantly where the money is going. The city has said that they made these changes because they wanted to avoid raising property taxes, to encourage alternative transport and to create more diverse parking options (i.e. Promoting parking garages).
Everyone who comes to the peninsula for work, school, or leisure will be affected by this change. Hospitality workers are arguably being most affected by this law alteration. From the workers perspective, the $2 an hour parking fee averages to be $16 per shift. For people who have no choice but to drive to the peninsula for work, paying $320 a month to park is simply outrageous. Councilmember Peter Shahid explains that “raising fees and extending the meter enforcement hours will cover the cost of upkeep for the high-tech digital devices. It’s where the rubber meets the road to pay for Charleston’s popularity.”
The city has also promised to provide a new way for hospitality workers to get to work. This new service will be called the “park-and-ride bus service” that will allow workers to park their cars in a lot and a shuttle take them to their jobs. This, in itself, has so many problems. The preliminary conceptual design estimates 175 parking spots for downtown employees. Here’s the issue: Downtown Charleston has 345 restaurants alone. This equals out to be under two spots per restaurant, not to mention the retail businesses and hotels. How does the city expect 7,700 hospitality employees on the peninsula to park in this one lot? Is this the city’s measly excuse for a compromise?
On Tuesday March 13, a team of Charlestonians, lead by local hospitality worker and College of Charleston student Jonathan Graham, spoke out against the meter changes to city councilmembers. Citizens involved in the event wore red because according to Graham “the employees whom this meter increase will most greatly impact are the lifeblood of this city.” Referring to how Charleston is the number one tourist attraction in the US and without its workers, this city will fail. The event went very well. According to Graham, “[They] had over 150 people there, packing out the house and filling the Four Corners of Law. They actually had to bring in an extra fire marshal to make sure we didn’t exceed capacity; they turned several people back to join the crowd outside.” We will have to wait and see whether or not the event impacted the council members enough to see a change. Graham reports “I know that [Councilmember] Mr. Seekings was taking many notes on the proposed solutions and I hope he’ll work with us on making sure we find solutions that work for everyone.”
The issue was not voted on after the protest because the city council has already approved the meter increase during last year’s 2018 budget process. For a fast growing city, our local officials are doing a great job turning their backs on those who keep this town going and those who call Charleston, South Carolina their home.