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Making downtown parking easier

Makes sense.

NoParking

In downtown Houston, there are about 3,200 parking spaces on the street – and a whopping 5,800 signs drivers must decipher to use them without getting towed or ticketed.

Aiming to fix this “confusing mishmash of signs,” as Mayor Annise Parker put it, City Council on Wednesday approved a $1.3 million contract with a Houston firm that will spend the next year removing signs and replacing them with a standardized set.

The types of parking signs posted downtown will drop from 120 to as few as 16.

“The goal is to have people be comfortable coming downtown knowing where they can park and not having a nasty surprise with their car being towed,” Parker said. “The theory apparently was previously that it’s better to have specific signs to say, ‘On this block you can do this between these hours.’ I don’t believe that. I think there ought to be consistency across downtown.”

Downtown Management District staff spent a week in a golf cart traveling streets, cataloging and photographing parking signs. The list showed, for example, at least 22 different versions of the same “no parking” message. In some places they found five or six signs stacked on the same post pointing in various directions, in what Councilman James Rodriguez called a befuddling “totem pole.”

Such proliferations of placards make it easy to miss the one that applies to you, Parker said, adding that the city also must keep curbs painted yellow in no-parking areas.

“I don’t want any ‘gotchas’ out there,” she said. “We want people who come downtown for a festival to have a great time at the festival and go back and find that their car is still in the same place they left it. Hear me: My goal is to write fewer parking tickets in downtown Houston and encourage everybody to come down and have a good time.”

I think everyone who has parked downtown has experienced this. It’s a welcome effort, and one that is not without cost to the city – as noted elsewhere in the story, the city collects $9.1 million from parking tickets but only $6.1 million from parking meters. Clearly, this is part of the recent focus on downtown retail, to help remove one of the obstacles to successful retail downtown by making people feel less confused and intimidated by the parking situation. I don’t know how much difference it will make, but it can’t hurt. Oh, and turning the old signs into an art project is all kinds of awesome. I can’t wait to see what that looks like. KUHF has more.

By the way, tacked on to the very end of the story is a note that Council approved the Uptown/Memorial TIRZ. You’d think after all the buildup leading to that vote that it might have warranted its own story, but apparently not. I understand that CM Helena Brown did vote no. That isn’t newsworthy anymore, either.

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