Mean Streets

We know a woman who attended a nighttime event in the business district recently. Because she was alone and it was night, she wanted to park nearby. With most of the on-street spots restricted for one reason or another, she settled on a parking lot for an area business that was closed for the day. Her presence created no menace for the lot; besides, she only intended to be away for about an hour. Off in one corner there was a foreboding sign warning people not to park in the lot, promising dire consequences for those who did. However, her safety trumped all other concerns. She parked in the spot and hoped for the best.

In the predatory world of parking policies the best seldom happens. She returned to find her car booted by a private company.

By then it was dark and she was alone and desperate. Fortunately an acquaintance happened to pass by and helped.

The experience cost her $90. Welcome to New Orleans. There must be reasons why private businesses don’t let people park in their lots at night, even if their business is closed. They might rank insurance precautions and vandalism high among the reasons; we would add greed and meanness. For doing nothing, the business and the thuggish parking service it contracted with made money off a woman merely going to a party.

Fortunately not all businesses have such ill will. Historically banks have been good about allowing use of their lots at night for parking. We know of one restaurateur who credits his business’s survival to the generosity of the bank across the street. Others have been less kind.

Business isn’t the only predator in the streets. Government is a player, too. There needs to be a re-assessment of no-parking areas, especially on weekends, when all of those forbidden freight zones are not really in use. In the vicinity of the courthouses too, many spaces are reserved for law enforcement vehicles that are never there – especially after hours. The same goes for premium spots in the French Quarter.

Applauding parking restrictions, of course, are parking lot operators who want the business driven their way. With automated parking they have eliminated the need for an attendant (who at least provided some safety) while at the same time jacking up fees. No overhead and increased income is a business model that anyone would admire.

We suspect the woman above will not be attending many Central Business District events anymore. She had rejoiced in urban life. Now she feels it has turned against her. 




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