Parking is an issue in Rome that isn't going away any time soon.

City commissioners retreated from recommendations of the Downtown Development Authority committee in 2019 and allowed an extra hour of free parking downtown while at the same time backing away from an extension of the hours of enforcement.

The city did move forward with the plan to use new license plate reader technology for enforcement purposes and collect data regarding violators. It will be some time before the city gets the first data set from the new technology but members of the Downtown Development Authority have already agreed that the three hours of free parking, coupled with the 6 p.m. end of enforcement hours, has simply emboldened some employees of downtown businesses to move their cars around to the prime Broad Street spaces right around 3:00 each afternoon.

The primary problem for people seeking to find on-street space downtown occurs largely in the 200 and 300 blocks of Broad Street during the mid-day and late evening periods.

Perhaps, at some point in the not too terribly distant future, the license plate reader technology will be able to pinpoint those downtown employees who, while not technically violating the parking ordinance, are certainly taking up space that the downtown merchants hope would be available to customers.

I can remember when I first moved to Rome in 1984 it didn't take long for me to fall into the Rome habit of driving around a block three or four, or more times in order to get a parking space right in front of where I wanted to go. That was generally Schroeder's (for an order of eight potato skins) or the Forrest Barber Shop (I still miss Chuck Lanham).

I'm not sure why I fell into that trap because way back in the mid-70's when I was working in Washington D.C., I parked in a deck about nine blocks from the federal building where I was working. That's right, nine blocks. That's like walking from City Hall to the south side of the Myrtle Hill Cemetery to get to the office every day. Can you imagine anyone doing that in Rome? Maybe Harry Brock.

The thought of being able to park right in front of the barber shop or restaurant was just too easy.

The changes that were originally proposed last year -- two hours of free parking with enforcement from 8 a.m. to 8.pm -- were conceived of to promote turnover of parking spaces and encourage downtown employees to use the parking decks or other off-street spaces.

Romans may remember that when changes to the parking ordinance were first being considered, the idea included paid parking on Broad Street via kiosks using credit cards or smart phones. It was NEVER a money grab as some of the social media whiners argued. Think about it for a second. You want to go out to eat and you can't find a parking space because employees have gobbled them all up. Yes, that's a bit of an exaggeration, but if you listen to some of the merchants, it's not that far-fetched.

DDA Director Amanda Carter said she is anxious to get some of the data from the license plate reader technology, and equally anxious to share that with the public.

It is important for folks to remember that virtually anywhere they park downtown, their license plate have to be visible to the enforcement vehicle as it rides around the central business district. In the meantime, there are no plans for any significant changes for the parking ordinance.

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