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Editorial: Parking experiment: It's all up to us whether it works

In case you haven't noticed, since July 23 the parking meters downtown have been deemed inactive. They will remain dormant during a one-year moratorium. That means when you park to shop or do some kind of business, you no longer have to feed coins into the meters.

That last sentence is the key for this experiment of doing without parking meters. The free parking operates now under a kind of honor system. If you are shopping or going somewhere to conduct business downtown, you are encouraged to park close and for free. You are not, however, encouraged to use the former metered spots for long-term parking.

Police Chief Roger Leque says that during the first seven weeks of the moratorium, the results appear favorable. He's received only one complaint of a Main Street apartment tenant parking downtown all day. That person, it was later found, was stuck with a broken-down car that was eventually moved.

On a busy weekday last week after UW-River Falls students returned for fall classes, Leque took an informal survey walk of the downtown. He found the streets vibrant, with lots of traffic, people out walking and yet enough parking spaces available.

The latter is what counts. The meters were installed decades ago to make sure there was an adequate turnover of convenient parking spaces in front of stores, shops, offices and restaurants. In other words, parking spaces for customers and patrons -- not for commuters, tenants or even downtown employees to hog for extended periods.

Chamber of Commerce CEO Rosanne Bump says early feedback from merchants is positive. Customers say they like not having to worry about fishing out nickels and dimes to plug meters in front of their favorite businesses.

Leque put it this way: "This moratorium will only be successful if people respect the downtown parking system." If not, the meters or some form of parking regulations will be reinstated to the Main Street area.

The message: Take advantage of the handy free parking and keep patronizing the downtown business district. However, don't abuse the free parking by treating it as an extended parking lot. The outcome is up to us.

Online Poll: Veto given thumbs up

The Journal's online poll question this week asked: What do you think of Mayor Dan Toland's decision to veto the City Council's approval of a liquor license for a BP-retail store clerk because of the clerk's past history of having three marijuana and drug paraphernalia citations?

Early results:

--LIKE IT, the mayor acted ethically by adhering to the letter of the law, 83.3%

--DISLIKE IT, seems a power play by the mayor who over-reacted to the pot issue, 16.7%

You may vote on this question by visiting River Falls Journal