Diamond Parking2The “parking issue” has come up during virtually every conversation I’ve had regarding the election, and was discussed by all five candidates last week at the League of Women Voters forum. Daryl Daugs talked about dining with two businessmen interested in downtown, only to find that all three of them had been ticketed for staying barely more than two hours. Will Maupin and Mike Shepherd talked about metered parking. Carlos Jara talked about the small-business owner’s two-hour shuffle. And Patty Lent said she’d take a look at the Diamond contract.

Someday, somebody’s going to have to explain to my why an abundance of free, two-hour parking, and a wealth of reasonably-priced, long-term parking spots downtown is a “problem.”

If you drive to downtown Bremerton right now – I don’t care what time of day you’re reading this – you can find free parking for up to two hours. Caution: You may have to walk a block or two. Staying longer? $6 gets you covered, secured parking all day. $6 dollars. Now, will somebody please show me an urban center on the water that’s worth visiting that offers a better deal?

The whining that we’re hearing from residents, I believe, stems from something Lent told me the other morning. “People think of Kitsap, and even Bremerton, as rural.” And that while she doesn’t think $6 parking is unreasonable, the same people rallying against downtown’s redevelopment are crying foul on the parking situation. When candidates try to appease voter concerns on the “parking situation” downtown — as all of them have — they’re throwing downtown redevelopment under the bus. You can’t have acres of free parking and the urban development downtown, the latter of which all of the candidates agree is the objective.

Could metered parking help? Possibly. But wouldn’t the same people – and even more – be up in arms about having to pay for the first two hours of parking? Or, would the first two hours be free and drivers would pay for subsequent time? That’s not a bad idea. But, I’ve yet to hear a candidate say that parking downtown, for free for four hours at a cost of moving your car once isn’t a fantastic deal. It is.

Are their parking problems in the immediate neighborhoods? Yes. Guests should be able to park in front of homes without getting a ticket. Once there’s a reason for more residents to park downtown – a movie theater, perhaps? — using the Navy’s garage in the evening seems reasonable. And that underground parking garage, if we can get it, sounds hard to argue with.

Our core problem with parking is that not enough people are taking advantage of the spaces that are available. There’s isn’t enough of a reason to come downtown. For most people, five hours in downtown Bremerton is not worth $6. But if downtown’s going to become the bustling urban center that all of the candidates seem to agree it should become, there’s going to have to be a candid conversation with residents about the fact that their idea of parking downtown doesn’t hold up with their vision for an urban center.