As Durham grows, parking problems will continue to grow with it.
You’d expect this problem to be most visible downtown, but parking violations there are well enforced.
I don’t have an explanation of why, but parking enforcement in our neighborhoods has changed these past few years. You now see folks parked wrong side to the curb, on the sidewalk, in No Parking zones and fire lanes, etc.
I think there is some confusion as to who handles parking violations. The City of Durham website says, “Lanier Parking System is now enforcing the City of Durham’s On-Street Parking Ordinances and may be contacted at 680-2481 concerning any parking citation received within the Durham city limits.”
So I called Lanier, and they said they only enforce downtown and near some Duke campuses. To me, this is as clear as mud.
Who cares? You should, and here’s why:
Nice neighborhoods don’t suddenly become slums. It’s a slow process of decline starting with what are called “broken windows”.
Broken windows aren’t just windows. They include anything that makes a neighborhood look disorderly, like garbage carts left at the curb, graffiti, and especially cars parked every which way.
Left unattended, these nit picky problems invite crime, and eventually contribute to the area’s decline. Property values decline as well.
Parking violations contribute to our city’s negative image. Pretend you are a visitor leaving downtown via Duke Street, and you pass the light at Morgan Street with DSA on your left, and the lovely West Village on your right.
There’s probably a car or two parked on the sidewalk in front West Village, since there is No Parking on that side of the street. Notice how torn up the curbing is there. Who’s going to fix that?
As a visitor, would you think, “Now this is a well-managed, pedestrian-friendly city!” Probably not. You might wonder why police drive right by. Perhaps the confusion mentioned above explains that.
Sometimes folks don’t realize they are parked illegally because they lack the education we used to provide – one parking ticket at a time. We should return to parking enforcement as we did in the past, but that’s only part of the solution I’ve proposed.
Wouldn’t it be great if we could educate, and get folks to park properly, without issuing them a ticket?
I’ve proposed a “Friendly Warning” program, and it seemed to receive a warm welcome from both our city manager and the chief of police. Unfortunately, it’s languishing on the chief’s desk at the moment. Perhaps this article will help it get moving again.
The idea is a simple warning that is quicker to fill out than a ticket for police, and can also be used by Citizens on Patrol, Partners Against Crime, etc. English on one side, Spanish on the other, it provides the education without a fine.
There are some other reasons for concern:
Parking over the curb kills trees, and leaves an ugly dent in the grass. That dent becomes a puddle and turns the dirt supporting the antique granite curb into mud. Those curbs haven’t moved in 100 years, but are now sinking under the weight of the vehicles passing over them.
Taxpayers must foot the bill for water meters and lines damaged by vehicles. They weren’t designed to support that amount of weight.
Do folks park on the sidewalk to avoid the cars speeding through our neighborhoods? Or do folks speed down residential streets made wider by illegally parked cars? Which came first, the chicken or the egg?
Everyone understands why parking in a fire lane is a bad idea, but they rarely realize the danger of parking wrong side to the curb until they pull away facing the oncoming traffic.
Some intersections are dangerous when illegally parked vehicles block our vision.
Perhaps an exception is needed for the crazy parking near the ballpark, but for the rest of the city, I’m tired of the ugly look of cars parked over the curb, and the muck they leave where the grass once grew.
Let’s avoid additional damage to our infrastructure. Our water lines and meters, our tree lined streets, our grassy medians, our sidewalks meant to be used by pedestrians, and our antique curbing, and our city’s image, could all use a break.
Allowing such visible examples of illegal practices is never a good idea, and this should be the easiest broken window to fix. Police should brush up their ticket-writing skills or clear up the confusion with Lanier, and we should print up those Friendly Warning notices, and return to being a city of properly parked cars.
Bill Anderson lives in Durham.