Want to invoke a string of anguished cries of outrage in Bend? Feel like stripping citizens of their hard-earned birthright to drive and park their cars wherever they want, whenever they want?
Then endeavor to switch some of Bend's downtown parking spaces to a paid system.
As reported in the Source Weekly last week, a two-year-long parking study conducted for the City of Bend has resulted in the recommendation to switch some of the parking in Mirror Pond Plaza and in other congested areas downtown to a model that involves some paid parking.
The study, conducted with Rick Williams Consulting, found that on average, about 210 cars were being moved from one 2-hour spot to another 2-hour spot every day, ostensibly driven by people who worked downtown. The study also highlighted the notion that "parking management" isn't all about parking for cars; that seeing fewer car trips into downtown—and in turn, less-congested parking areas—could also be achieved by encouraging active transportation and parking for bikes.
The move to paid parking is one that we support, not least in part because we don't believe that driving is the only way to access the city's downtown core. We support the move because we believe that in a city the size of Bend, where one can cycle from the far-west side of town to downtown in fewer than five miles (Phil's Trailhead to the Tower Theatre is 4.8 miles, to be exact), a lot more people should think twice about driving a large vehicle into the core.
Our city is only 35.9 square miles, even after the expansion of the Urban Growth Boundary, and yet, a pitifully low number of people actively commute to work every day. If dropping off kids at school is your excuse, perhaps consider driving them to school and then biking into downtown. If mobility is an issue, electric assist bikes and trikes can get 30 miles or more on a single charge.
Even those with more significant mobility issues and those living in the outer reaches now have the option of Uber, and of course, taxis and bus service. And just this week, the new summer shuttle service, Ride Bend, launches in central Bend. Meanwhile, the bike sharing service, Zagster, just recently set up a kiosk downtown and at OSU-Cascades. (Still, we do admit the region could stand to have even more bus access and service.)
Whether you're commuting or you're headed to downtown for purposes other than work, isn't it easier to park your bike once, to spare yourself the fuel and parking hassle, and to perhaps get some exercise at the same time?
The point is: parking your vehicle for free in a downtown stall so you can work, shop or eat and drink in the city center isn't a birthright. It's a service that's been provided to you thus far for free, and upon review of the cost, the entity that offers you some of that parking has determined that it's costing too much. Many other cities have obviously thought the same, because most other cities of Bend's size already charge for parking.
For those who are continually lamenting the fact that the city is lacking cash and don't want to pay for something reasonable like a gas tax, this is your fee-based model. It means added revenue at a time when the city is growing and looking at creative solutions to pay for its core services. If you thought that free parking was one of those "core services," you were wrong.