EDITORíS DESK: Paid parking: Heresy or hope?

       Whenever I drive downtown, I make sure I have a pocketful of change. You know what I mean. Meters are everywhere, and the tickets are up to $20 now.
       But according to the city parking office, such financial obstacles don't drive people away. Old Colorado City wouldn't mind having a few of those downtown shoppers, especially on some of these lonely winter afternoons.
       So what's going on here? The leaders of Old Town's major redevelopment a quarter of a century ago were adamant that free parking was a key to retail success. So adamant that property owners in the shopping area were convinced to pay a separate tax to keep the city from owning the parking lots and metering them. Free parking would make Old Colorado City as popular as a shopping mall - that was the idea, anyway.
       Fast forward to the present, and you have the Security & Maintenance District Advisory Committee starting to question the premise on which it was founded. Caring for the lots takes away money that could be used for up-front needs, such as new landscaping or pedestrian-geared lighting. Without substantial parking meter earnings (the on-street meters barely pay for themselves, we're told), city government feels less need to "give back" to Old Town in terms of public amenities. Also significant, modern technology has created smoother, less painful ways of separating small change (or even greenbacks) from motorists seeking parking spots.
       Could our founders have been wrong? Or have times changed? There's no crime in considering the concept afresh. Kudos to the committee for being heretical enough to try.

- K.J.