For as long as I can remember, people have complained about parking in Downtown Hartford. Defenders of the current parking situation will argue there is plenty of parking and it is cheaper than many cities. That may be, but the fact is, downtown parking is difficult, confusing, frustrating, and is hurting downtown business.
The above picture was taken Sunday morning around 8:45AM on Church Street, across from the Hartford Stage. Kara and I were there along with dozens of people rehearsing at the Stage for the Joy for the Kids concert.
We assumed, wrongly, that we could easily park at one of the meters for free since the meters don’t charge on Sundays, and very few people come downtown on Sundays because very few businesses open on Sundays. Even Starbucks is closed.
We encountered the above scene and then noticed meters throughout downtown were bagged with tow zone and no parking signs. We couldn’t figure out what was going on, but didn’t want the car towed, so we actually paid to park in a garage! I’m not against paying for parking, but on a cold Sunday morning in a desolate downtown, no visitor should pay a dime for parking when there are dozens of empty meter spots on the streets. Denise and others came to downtown with the same expectation for parking and also ended up in a garage.
I contacted HPD this week to find out why these meters were bagged. Old friend Nancy Mulroy, whom I have known for years, gave me the official answer as to why street parking is banned: “to prevent gridlock during the UConn game.” The game was at 1pm, the meters were bagged when I saw them at 8:45AM, perhaps even earlier.
I tell you, Hartford has a litany of problems, and gridlock is not one of them. In fact, the city could use some good old fashioned gridlock, the kind that encourages people to stay in the city a little longer, perhaps grab something to eat and spend some money.
I spoke to a local merchant about this, and she told me the bagged meters without a posted explanation have long been a point of contention downtown. “People want to be able to park at a meter, not necessarily a garage, ” she told me. Some people actually believe the city is in collusion with the garage and parking lot owners to bag the meters and force visitors into the lots and garages.
Other merchants have complained about this, and believe it it is the city’s goal through its parking management and traffic patterns, to get people out of downtown as quickly as possible rather than have them stay! Many meters ban parking from 3:30PM to 6:30PM, so the streets can hold more traffic and empty the city quickly. That policy discourages people from coming downtown during these hours.
If the city doesn’t think this parking meter and traffic policy isn’t hurting Hartford, I suggest looking at the growing number of empty storefronts and the decrease in foot traffic.
There must be a better way.