Parking meters are designed to encourage turnover and discourage long-term parking -- but shoppers sometimes forget to feed them.
If you drive downtown regularly, chances are you've sung the downtown parking meter blues.
The tune goes something like this:
First you plunk some change into a downtown parking meter, go shop for a while, lose track of time ... and when you return it's there on your windshield -- the yellow parking fine envelope.
But during the Christmas shopping season, many downtown shopkeepers come to the rescue to pay the $1 fine, says Pat Kehde, president of Downtown Lawrence Inc.
Kehde, co-owner of The Raven, 6 E. Seventh, said although they often don't publicize it, some merchants make it a practice to take care of their customers' parking meter woes.
One who doesn't mind the publicity is George Paley, owner of Natural Way, 820 Mass.
"A mad customer is bad for everybody," says Paley, a past president of Downtown Lawrence. "What happens is they go outside, they get the ticket, they get mad and they don't leave with a good impression of downtown."
Paley said the parking meters are a necessity to encourage turnover downtown. And they help to discourage people who work downtown from using all the spaces.
But customers who get tickets still get angry, he said.
"I'm better off to give Mr. Jones a dollar," Paley said. "That way Mr. Jones' money stays in the community and it's a lot better for all of us. ... They say an unhappy person tells 10 people and happy people tell only one or two."
City Manager Mike Wildgen said the parking meters are needed to help pay for downtown parking maintenance and to encourage parking turnover.
The meters allow for 90 minutes of parking along Massachusetts Street. Parking lots behind the stores on Massachusetts have about 500 spaces that allow two hours of free parking.
"The money all stays in one fund (and) is used to maintain the downtown parking system," Wildgen said. "We have to repair medians, pay for maintenance and landscaping."
Parking in downtown, other than the city parking garage adjacent to the Lawrence Riverfront Plaza Factory Outlets, is free on Sunday, he said.
And all downtown parking is free each night, he said.
Kehde said Lawrence's downtown parking fine of $1 is "like a mosquito bite. It's bothersome, but it's not a big deal."
She said she was shopping in Kansas City, Mo., last week and got a ticket for parking at an expired meter. It cost her $15.
"I was stunned," she said.
Several years ago, Lawrence merchants paid the city to have hoods placed on the downtown meters during the Christmas shopping season, she said.
"I haven't heard anybody wanting to spring for that this year," Kehde said. "I loved it when they did that. Maybe we'll put it on the agenda for next year."
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