Solving Dowagiac’s parking problem

When it comes to ensuring that downtown businesses are getting every benefit possible to thrive, the City of Dowagiac and Greater Dowagiac Chamber of Commerce recently demonstrated they aren’t spacing out.

Earlier this month, the city, police department and chamber hosted a meeting meant to address an issue that has affected the central business district for decades — people clogging up short-term parking spots in downtown’s busiest corridor. A spat of recent complaints made the three take action on the issue, to figure out a better way to address the problem, as business owners fear that congested parking deters customers from visiting their establishments.

Over the last several weeks, officers with the police department have worked alongside business owners to communicate with downtown residents, workers and visitors about the three-hour time limit imposed on many parking spaces. Their efforts appear to working out so far, as Deputy Chief Jarrid Bradford said the police have only issued seven parking citations since April 13.

The “crackdown” is another demonstration of the benefits that emerge when local entities choose to work alongside the public to address problems affecting the community.

While not a serious problem like theft or violent crime, people who violate the city’s parking ordinance do have an impact.

It’s a common occurrence for people to have to park a block or more away from the business they are trying to visit during busy afternoons and evenings downtown, when many spaces along Front, Commercial or Beeson streets are occupied. While a majority of the parkers obey the time limit, the few that don’t are unnecessarily contributing to the issue.

Fortunately, a vast majority of people failing to follow downtown parking laws aren’t doing so out of malice, and have cooperated with requests to use long-term parking spaces in the future, according to Bradford.

While it would be easy for police to simply step up ticketing to solve the issue, instead officers have worked with people to just talk about the problem, earning the same results without incurring resentment from locals upset about getting cited.

While there is no magic bullet to completely eliminate people abusing short-term parking spots, we think the partnership between local government and businesses will make it a much more manageable problem. Their continued monitoring will no doubt bring nothing but continued success to Dowagiac’s beloved downtown.

 

Opinions expressed are those of the editorial board consisting of Publisher Michael Caldwell and editors Ambrosia Neldon, Craig Haupert, Ted Yoakum and Scott Novak.

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