The Public Space
September 16, 2015
me no hunt
by Ken Mayer
My inner cave man is disappointed. His hunting ground has changed. No longer will previously wily prey be illusive and challenging.
My inner finance guy is pleased. His wallet will not be emptied so quickly. And he will conserve and save his most precious asset, time.
I write, of course, about the parking changes the City of Omaha will institute next month. Finance guy says, “About damn time,” cave man just grunts.
Cave man sees the hunt for parking as his hereditary mandate. Ancestors of old hunted for their very survival, and he feels deprived. Somehow, it’s unsatisfying to enjoy a fermented beverage and discuss bashing a few skulls with the other cave men without earning the privilege by way of the hunt.
Finance guy knows that a dollar an hour without the interminable circling is a good deal. He can get to dinner with his classy and fabulous spouse on time, fresh and dry from avoiding both a long hurried walk and the weather. In addition, two or three bucks for the evening is a bargain. Been to Chicago lately?
I lived in the heart of the old central business district for nearly 20 years and never tried to use street parking near my residence. Nevertheless, I knew plenty of people who did. This turned into a nightmare on days they were off work.
Working in the district, I saw the same phenomenon. Employees would find any excuse to leave their desks or a meeting to plug a parking meter. In the end, unless you consider your time to be completely without value, these strategies are pretty expensive.
I, for one, welcome these changes.
It’s been around for a while now, but paying for parking with a credit card is a great improvement. It’s actually reduced theft. I used to keep a roll of quarters in that little change box in my car. If I forgot to close the box’s little door or even left the car unlocked, I could return $10 worse for the oversight.
My inner cave man friends are under suspicion.
Then came the mobile device app. Simply enter the zone and space information from the parking meter and the time you intend to stay. You can get the app at http://cityofomaha.org/parkomaha/. The meter won’t register your time, but I’ve never had a problem. Parking enforcement immediately knows that you have paid for parking.
Moreover, if you are delayed, the app will let you know and give you the opportunity to extend your stay without returning to the meter. Finance guy likes this efficient asset allocation.
Plus, no more hoarding or trying to find change.
Evidence from other cities would indicate the careful management of parking could be an economic stimulus as well. This is likely to be the case here, especially in the Old Market. Thanks to some of their management practices, most Old Market businesses are destination enterprises. They can’t be found elsewhere, so shoppers will be more willing to pay for parking.
Speaking of economic development, isn’t it about time to return downtown to two-way streets? Flextime, siting the ballpark and arena close to Interstate access, and the conspicuous absence of traffic jams in downtown would suggest that one-way streets are something only my inner cave man would cherish.
Point is, if we universally use diagonal parking (preferably back in) and two-way streets, traffic will slow, and motorists will become more familiar with local establishments. Combined with easy short-term parking, this could be a boon to many small businesses.
Please don’t worry about my inner cave man. He can still hunt, so long as he has the TV remote.
The Public Space
Ken Mayer is a freelance writer, photographer, consultant and adjunct faculty member at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. He has served on the boards of The Nebraska Choral Arts Society, Downtown Omaha Inc. and Landmark’s Inc. Mr. Mayer has been a consultant and volunteer for Omaha by Design since 2002.