Parking meter protesters, downtown workers face Charleston city council

VIDEO: Parking meter protesters, downtown workers face Charleston city council

CHARLESTON COUNTY, SC (WCSC) - In the next two weeks parking meter prices are going to double in downtown Charleston.

They will go from $1 per hour to $2 per hour, as well as expanding the time you have to pay by four hours.

"It's not only going to affect food and bev but also the tourists, the students here, people that work in theater. It really does effect everybody," Nevada Craig said.

Downtown workers held signs and protested the meter increase at Tuesday's Charleston City Council meeting.

"Increasing the meters for me would cost an additional $320 a month,"Kristan White said.

White has her own business, and is working two jobs. One of those jobs is downtown. White said with her busy schedule, the city's new park and ride may not be the best option for her to get downtown.

"That adds commute time to my day, and I'm already juggling so many things I don't have time," White said.

Charleston City Councilman Mike Seekings said there are 7,000 hospitality workers on the peninsula and only 1,703 parking meters.

Seekings said by raising the price on the meters, it wasn't aimed to hurt the workers.

"I think there's been a lot of comment that this is something that this was a target at hospitality," said Seekings. "I just want to let you know there was never a time my committee, and any committee sitting around this table, and any council member that we are targeting anything other than trying to make sure we manage the space we have in the city as well we possibly can."

Seekings said by raising the prices, it was a city management and budget issue. For the workers who pay the meters, they said there could be a better way.

"It's no solution to raise the rates on kids who are making the success of our businesses just to fill a budget deficit," Mickey Bakst said.

Council members said a parking garage is available for workers to use that has a flat rate after a certain time, for one worker she said that's not the best option.

"Telling me to go walk five or six blocks to a parking garage at two in the morning with $200 cash in my pocket is not a safe option for me," said White.

Workers said with limited options for parking, the increase could have an impact on one of the nation's top tourism destinations.

"If we lose the people that built this hospitality image of our city that's going to disappear," said Bakst.

The city's park and ride, Seekings said would be the first in the region, would provide 175 spaces for downtown workers.

"We are working on park and ride," said Seekings. "It's not a perfect solution yet, but it's a start."

Seekings also said raising the prices is something other cities of similar stature are doing, and is a model that makes sense for the downtown area.

"You can put $2 on a meter at 4 in the afternoon and park there until 9 or 10 the next morning," said Seekings. "So that's sixteen hours for $2. I'm hoping everyone in this chamber realizes that's not a model that can be sustainable for us or the industry."

For food and beverage workers, some said the high parking prices could push employees to look elsewhere off the peninsula.

"I think the peninsula's going to lose employees, we're struggling to staff employees. I'm in restaurants, we are struggling to staff our business. Hotels are struggling to staff our businesses," said Bankst.

The park and ride will begin in tandem with the increased parking meter prices. Seekings said that could begin in two weeks, if everything goes well.

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