What's Your Beef? Park It, Or Leave It

by Jerry Schuster

To get right to the point—the BIG issue for Bozemanites is not jobs, the economy, drought, the weather, dogs or taxes—no, it is where to park when downtown. Whether it’s for shopping at unique stores, enjoying some fabulous food, or an evening out on the town at the Rocking R, we all need a place to park. Or do we?

So, if we can clear this up, many people will have a heavy burden lifted from their shoulders. Gee, thanks, I’m here to be your advocate for the cause of great solutions and less frustration on the downtown parking issue. Here we go; just stay calm and get through this article, and your life will be much better.

The extent of this article is the problem of Main Street downtown parking. Sure, parking is a problem throughout the town. Just consider the facts: about twenty thousand new arrivals with 3.6 cars each move to a town designed to accommodate a few horse-and-buggy outfits and later some automobiles. Add to the mix some 15,000 students incoming each fall with their .5 vehicle each, which is 70’s style and takes up three parking spots, plus extra room for a jump or push start. Then add some million or so tourists, all wanting the parking spot right in front of Burger Bobs at 11:45 am.

 

You concur, then, that we don’t have the time or space to tackle a comprehensive plan for the entire area. Just downtown, Main Street. Stop it. I will not take on an issue brought about by 40,000 people moving into a town capable of handling vehicles for 5,000. If enough requests are received, however, I will schedule the more comprehensive plan for another time.

Just Main Street, between Rouse Avenue and Grand Avenue, both sides. Where locals make their U-turns to impress tourists and non-locals. You got it.

Here Are Some Ideas For Resolving This Problem, Not Necessarily In Order Of Priority.
Idea # 1 - Start fresh. Yes, rethink this problem and make a bold new start. So, on a slow business day in February (slow month) with plenty of advance notice, all vehicles must be off both sides of the stated blocks. Parking there is prohibited, no exceptions; wait, EXCEPT bona fide handicap and emergency vehicles. No, to answer your question, the food trucks are not emergency vehicles, although the Mac and Cheese one is close when you are really hungry.

If you choose to park your vehicle illegally in the prohibited zone, your “fine” will be $25.00. After payment, you get a one year “Illegal Parking Waiver of Ordinance Provisions Permit” to stick on your windshield. No checks, cash only, take a number and wait in line at the City Office. So you choose not to pay the “fine?” Fine. The second citation will cost you $500.00 and the third $1,000.00, so there is good motivation to pay the first “fine.”

Out-of-state vehicles, Except MSU registered vehicles with valid Student Parking Permits, will be issued a 10 day ordinance waiver permit upon payment of a $10.00 “fine.” There will be vending machines on each corner to provide these special stickers with micro chips. Very sensitive cameras will monitor all of this activity day and night, so the City will not have to hire “Sticker Police.” George Orwell had it right, Big Brother IS watching.

I know you are skeptical, but just consider the benefits. Everyone parking downtown will pay something for the privilege to park. A nice fund will be available for some beautiful high-rise parking facilities with no need for an additional “Main Street Parking Special” on your tax bill. Those who ride the bus, Uber, cab, bike or walk to the downtown area don’t have to pay.

The city will be happy, the users will be okay with paying a small sum instead of increased specials for homeowners and passed on to renters, and the out of state folks and tourists will get over it by the time they get home. Happy all around.

Idea # 2 - Okay, so you don’t like Idea # 1 you old curmudgeon. Take a deep breath. I’m still advocating and you will like this one.
No parking meters, ever. No exceptions. They are ugly, a nuisance and very irritating. Shopping and dining should be a pleasant, relaxed experience, not a marathon to keep feeding meters. The latest models take credit cards, so it’s nice to know that your account information will be available to hackers for a fifty cent charge on the card. Actually, meters are just a legal method of picking pockets, aka theft. Good, we can get that meters proposal off the plate for good. Done, fini, good bye.

Now We Will Have To Think Outside The Meter Box.
One idea is to require all new vehicles to have the “hands free” parking feature. Instead of the typical Montana-style 10 foot space between parked vehicles (“gotta be able to get out, ya know”), the self-parking feature would allow another 100 vehicles to park downtown, just inches apart. When exiting the space, the feature will allow the vehicle to go back and forth thousands of time per second and it will be out in less than 6 seconds.

The Exception to the requirement will be for  Hummers, Volvos and Audis. Since they are so well-built and tough, they will be allowed to nudge the other vehicles to park. If more space is needed, the drivers can clear a space as needed with those vehicles, and who is going to argue with them? Just live with the fact that your sedan is now a “mini.” No big deal.

Until all vehicles have the right equipment, we will just have to live with what we have—Montana style parking with lots of space between vehicles and college-style cars which are the older 70s and 80s models which occupy three spaces. Don’t get so huffy—my college vehicle was a half block long and needed a push to start. It got two miles to the gallon if headed down hill. I feel your pain.

Still not satisfied? Need one more resolution? Pardon my asking, but how about using the parking space we have in this town to the fullest extent possible? A little self sacrifice and discipline you might say. So, we can park our vehicles at the Mall parking area and do some shopping there while waiting for the shuttle bus, cab or Uber to take us downtown. Finish your downtown shopping and dining experience, and it’s back to the Mall. Take in a movie matinee and head home.

During the summer months, we could have bikes to rent for a nominal $1.00 charge. When you return the bike in good condition, you get a coupon good for a shot of “espresso du jour”at Wild Joe’s. ANYTHING EXCEPT METERS!

How to get the money for new parking facilities and improvements? Easy. All recent imports from California with a new “modest” house in the $800,000 range will have another “special” on their real estate tax statements. This is not a new tax, so get it right, it is a special. The official title will be “A special for occupying valuable parking space in beautiful downtown Bozeman, which amount is a lot less than you would pay for parking in Boston, New York or Honolulu where your other houses are located, so get over it.” The amount of the special will be set annually by the city once the special is approved by the voters. It would be estimated to be $10.00 for the first year, so it will easily pass. The amount for future years will be adjusted to a more realistic $500.00 to $1,700.00. The money generated will keep those downtown streets neat and orderly for a long time and the City could build some beautiful high rise parking garages.

Now, pay attention, this is the good part. The funds could also be diverted over to a more Bozeman-friendly new bike and dog path from Bozeman to Livingston. After the challenging lawsuits are resolved by the year 2086, there will be no need to continue the special.
We should not get so worked up about this downtown parking issue. Time passes quickly, and soon we will have smaller, very smart electric vehicles. Our robot cars will drop us off and park in a convenient place. Summoned via your device voice command when ready, and the vehicle will appear. Now isn’t that about the most convenient thing you ever heard? The Exception will be those 70’s style college cars which take up three parking spaces. We will always have those, and with them come those eager students who will come up with brilliant solutions to these pressing problems, like where to park downtown.

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