Do You Want to See a Metered Main Street?

A new program is bringing paid parking downtown.

Free parking on Main Street may soon be a thing of the past. 

County officials said Tuesday night that they hope to have a parking program up and running by September that would include the installation of parking meters on Main Street and Maryland Avenue. 

The program was unveiled at a meeting Tuesday night on the .

Parking meters were on display, along with parking signs, maps and cardboard diagrams to showcase the ways downtown Ellicott City would be changing to make it, as County Executive Ken Ulman contended, “stronger and better able to continue to thrive for the next generation and beyond.”

Representatives from different county offices were at the George Howard Building to answer questions about several of the different projects in the works. 

But most people were talking about parking.

“Most successful places, you always pay for parking,” Nancy Gibson, owner of The  at 8044 Main St. said.

Other meeting attendees, however, expressed concern about the aesthetic impact, the cost and how more paid parking would affect visitors’ propensities to shop in the Historic District, recently named a

“I’m not naive to know that any change in parking may make some people happy and some people unhappy,” Ulman said to a crowd of about 75 business owners, residents and other interested stakeholders at Tuesday night’s meeting. 

In addition to adding more paid spots, the new parking program would include a mobile application that is supposed to give users information about where available spots are in the historic district via information from sensors installed in and above the ground.

Not all parameters have been decided.

“How much is it going to cost to park – and is the revenue slated to go toward Ellicott City?” was a question on everyone’s mind.

The price hasn’t yet been determined, said Diane Schwarzman, chief of the traffic engineering division for Howard County. That issue will be on the agenda for the County Council’s Sept. 3 public hearing. It wasn’t likely, however, that there would be any revenue to funnel toward Main Street, she added.

“Basically, we’re looking at paying the cost of maintenance.”

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Barbara Donlan August 22, 2012 at 06:19 PM
Meters will ruin the looks of Main Street. It is already difficult to pass someone on the sidewalk without bumping into an electric pole, etc.
linda marie schaefer August 22, 2012 at 06:20 PM
I remember 40 yrs or so they did have parking meters on main st
Peter Edelen August 22, 2012 at 06:48 PM
They need residential parking permits if they are going to limit our options even further.
Kelly Martin Broderick August 22, 2012 at 07:39 PM
What kind of ridiculousness is the necessity of having a parking system that we can find parking using our smart phones? EC isn't big - it doesn't take very long to find a parking spot. Are we really that lazy??
Peter Edelen August 22, 2012 at 07:47 PM
Kelly, I thought using smart phones while driving was against the law. :-) So they have one source of revenue with two additional potential sources of income. 1) Ticketing people they see using a smartphone. 2) Charging for parking with a 2 hour limit 3) Parking ticket after the 2 hour limit. It's a WIN-WIN-WIN for the County. And as I have experienced with the parking enforcement collection agency up in New York, they will keep charging you late fees and report you to the MVA after you paid your ticket postmarked by the due date but they received after the due date unless you write them a letter copying the Howard County Comptroller. More money.
Kelly Martin Broderick August 22, 2012 at 10:17 PM
Yeah, what about this whole no texting while driving... how does that work with the "use your smart phone to find parking!" They have similar parking in Baltimore and it's super annoying and a total racket. With traditional meters you get to run off whatever the person before you left but with these they can get two, or sometimes even more, people parking and paying for the same space one after another and they just keep on getting paid. I always try to hand people my dash parking slip if I have more time on it, but I don't know if that will work with this system.
Brandie Jefferson August 23, 2012 at 02:09 AM
I think a lot of people would be in favor of that, Peter. I lived in Providence, RI for a while and I thought it was the only city in the world with a 50k+ population that didn't have a residential system. But maybe it's not as common as I thought.
Derek Smith August 23, 2012 at 03:31 AM
I think this is a bad thing. Ken Ulman says some people will like and some won't. I can tell you exactly who will like it and who will not. The county will like it, everyone else will not. We all need to stand up and say, "No!"
Dan Jenkins September 11, 2012 at 11:54 AM
Ulman wants Ellicott City residents to pay to park in front of their own homes -- and this after we have been ravaged by floods, train accidents, and the recent shooting. Mr. Ulman, is it an election year? Can you explain why you want to make life harder for Main Street residents who have been struggling for normalcy?
commentmaker4 September 11, 2012 at 01:24 PM
Would there still be a two hour limit on parking? Most tourists need more time than that to enjoy our wonderful little town. I f some will and others won't like it, why do it?
business owner September 18, 2012 at 01:50 AM
We had meters on Main Street 30yrs ago. You can come into town any day and find plenty of parking. If we charge customers and residents why would they want to stay? Why is it that Main Street is the only shopping district in Howard County where you have to pay to shop? How about Columbia Mall?
len berkowitz September 18, 2012 at 02:34 AM
I have been in E.C. for 33 years / 5 County Execs / 2 parking meter tries. All to no avail to solve the problems. To move E.C. forward we don't need meters; we need a parking garage without mulity use , enforcement of current restrictions and especially no return of merchants on Main St.) , repair of both lots currently not at full capasity , enforcement of abused handicap tags , and no crosswalks requiring the lose of 6 spaces each on Main St.
Peter Edelen September 19, 2012 at 01:24 PM
It appears that this is a done deal. I attended the County Council public hearing last night in regards to the meter rates. I believe the parking system was already purchased. Businesses are either for or against. Heard both sides. To my knowledge, I was the only resident that attended along with several business owners. I previously submitted written testimony but testified briefly that residents will be surrounded by parking meters in most cases. I think the general consensus is that we should park in the free spaces available in the lots, if we can get them. Competition for these free spots will go up as I think tourists will find the 2 hour metered spaces that Lafferty referred to as 'Premium Parking' undesirable. I'll be getting up early on the weekend to grab these prized free spots in the lots furthest away from where I live. :-)
Dan Jenkins September 19, 2012 at 02:20 PM
Then it may be time to consider a class action suit against the county. That, and I am moving when meter #1 is erected. I will be forced to. I wonder if we can meters in front of Ulman's house? Sounds like a premium spot!
Dan Jenkins September 19, 2012 at 02:23 PM
The county could also fix the damaged parking lots to ease the burden. We have a crisis of leadership here.
Peter Edelen September 19, 2012 at 03:40 PM
I don't know if any legal recourse is applicable. We're talking about public parking. My goal has been for them to consider residents and the challenges we face. Ultimately, we choose to live here. Like one business owner told me, there are people waiting in line to take our places if we move. They'll move in knowing the parking challenges that will be here,just like we did when we did. Ah, the allure of living on Main Street, until your first sleepless night. The damaged lots that are still awaiting repair will be on the same meter system. They were already completely meters.
Dan Jenkins September 19, 2012 at 04:19 PM
Peter, Peter: do you want a parking pass or not? The administration has already made it clear that polite consideration of mutual interests is not a guiding principle when it comes to dealing with Main Street residents. Of course law suit talk is just blowing smoke! But you're right, I can move, and will. You can spend the rest of your days on the street apologizing to the governance structure for wanting to be treated like a human beingh whose interests matter. Maybe the property owners will take up the fight for parking passes when that long line of potential renters dwindles, or is young enough to walk and too young to pay the rent.
Peter Edelen September 19, 2012 at 04:56 PM
Of course I do. I've not given up. We really needed some residents to come and be heard last night. As it was, it was just myself as a resident and several business owners for and against. Hopefully enough people sent in written testimonies. I was posting updates in the Facebook Historic Ellicott City Community group but not everyone is in that group, so we have to rely on word of mouth. You can e-mail councilmail@howardcountymd.gov with testimony in reference to 'CR142-2012-Adopting a revised schedule of fees for parking meter rates' with your input. In the meantime, maybe we can look at starting a petition and try to start herding these cats who live here to stand up for themselves.
Derek Smith September 19, 2012 at 05:27 PM
Perhaps a coordinated boycott of the meters? We can ask folks who come to park to please use the free spaces in the lots or just decide to not visit that day. If Ulman can see an empty street, it should make a point. A petition drive would also be helpful. I'd like to volunteer to stand out there for a Saturday and get signatures from visitors and residents alike. I'm also wondering about the fees. There was mention in the article about there being only enough to maintain. If that's really the case, why bother at all. That means no money for the district, no money for the county. Only irritated vehicle onwers and less business for the district. BAD move. Not to mention it totally spoils the atmosphere. And on the issue of this mobile app... so the county is ENCOURAGING drivers to distract themselves with their mobile device in order to find a spot? Come on! This one was not thought through at all. I'm wondering how many accidents and pedestrians will suffer for that one. Kill the idea and let things be.
Brandie Jefferson September 20, 2012 at 04:27 PM
Stephen Lafferty said yesterday that he was open to discussing permits: "We’ve not revisited the issue, but certainly it could be put back on the table."
steve collins October 19, 2012 at 03:12 PM
So here we are. Parking meters will go in, and the county exec has an an agenda of which we are not aware, or so it would seem. Why the necessity to do this without truly seeking community endorsement?? And I am left wondering why we got our new pavement at this time. Perhaps the softer surface is condusive to easier installation of sensors. But as I say here we are. I would make two reccommendations: 1) a grace period for parking infractions as the public learns the new system, possibly with warnings instead of tickets and 2) painting the curbs where parking is limited, as in loading zones, so that are customers are not angered by large fines because they failed to see the signs--yellow curbs is a much more observsable warning.
Derek Smith October 19, 2012 at 04:37 PM
Good points Steve. I'm wondering why our county executive feels he can just walk all over us. He applied for the job, we read his resume and hired him. Yes I know he was "elected" but the principle is the same. We are his boss. We pay his salary. He's there to serve US. He MUST be held accountable during the next hiring cycle (election) and not rehired. In addition, he must be made accountable for any accidents or injury arising from the use of this mobile app should any occur. If the system is a failure, he and his ilk should be made to pay us all back from their own pockets. Next step: We should encourage everyone to boycott the meters and find other arrangements. We should continue to push back on this. If we just let the issue die, they'll just do it again.
Lindsay January 02, 2013 at 03:50 PM
A boycott of the meters will prove that they work. On small historic streets with limited parking, the meters help to force the long-term parkers to move their cars to lots further out rather than hogging the high-demand spaces and/or moving a little bit every two hours to prevent the meter maids from giving them a ticket. One commenter said you need a parking garage. Who will pay for that? On average, EACH space in a parking garage costs $20,000 to $30,000, and people don't like parking in garages. (I encourage anyone to go to any parking garage outside of LA and go to the top level - it'll be empty 9 times out of 10). Meters cost a lot less and usually solve your problem of high demand spaces. No one likes paying for parking, but it's basic economics. When you have a limited quantity of a high-demand good...you raise the price.
Dan Jenkins January 02, 2013 at 03:58 PM
Lindsay: it depends on what you mean by "work." If a measure of the meters "working" is that residents, as you say, are forced to endure greater and greater hardships, then I'm sure a boycott will "work!" If there is to be a parking solution that accounts for the needs of all stakeholders -- including residents -- then metered parking without reasonable concessions to residents does not "work."
Dan Jenkins January 02, 2013 at 04:03 PM
Also, your language makes it seem like resident concerns are frivolous or selfish -- you describe us as "hogging" spaces that are "high-demand," and I think this is unfair. It is reasonable to expect to park in front of one's home without paying, and, indeed, this is how parking in mixed-use areas elsewhere in the region is handled. If Ellicott is to be an exception to this standard, I'd like to hear a good reason why. The argument that this exception will help businesses -- against their will, it seems, since so many opposed the meters -- falls flat. This just seems like so much apologetics on behalf of an administration that decided long ago that they don't care much about us Main Street trolls who hog all the spots.
Dan Jenkins January 02, 2013 at 04:05 PM
Last one: Ellicott City is NOT LA! Not by a long shot.
Lindsay January 02, 2013 at 06:52 PM
Resident concerns are not frivolous or selfish, but it is impossible to provide free parking for everyone at all times right in front of where they want to go. In most downtowns, regardless of size, 9-5 employees are usually the ones guilty of "hogging" spaces. Having a residential permit program is a good idea.


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