In Salem, free parking comes at a cost

Parking meters along a street in Salem (KOIN 6 News, file)
Parking meters along a street in Salem (KOIN 6 News, file)

SALEM, Ore. (KOIN) — After some downtown businesses petitioned the Salem City Council to eliminate the two-hour parking limit, the plan has worked well for some who believed it would bring more shoppers to the central city.

Others, though, said the effect has been just the opposite since it took effect in October.

Tim Good of the Little Cannoli Bakery likes the plan. “People can just park and do whatever they want without having to worry about getting back right away,” he said.

But The French Unicorn’s Karma McNutt said it hasn’t worked out. “Well, we’ve actually had customers say, ‘Well, you know, I couldn’t find a spot within the block and so I decided not to come in. And I left,'” she said.

KOIN 6 News saw drivers waiting to pounce on a parking spot the moment someone pulls out. Delivery vehicles double parked, and some people circle the block again and again — until they gave up.

“I think it has been a problem finding spots,” said downtown shopper Glenda Smith, “because people can park all day long.”

Doug Rux, the assistant director of Urban Development in Salem, said there are also a lot of free spaces in three downtown parking garages.

When asked what he would say to frustrated drivers who can’t find a spot, he said, “I would say that we have parking downtown in Salem for you.”

He admitted that they are “continuing to monitor it, to see where it will go in the future.”

Part of that process is the effect on downtown workers who pay up to $75 a month for parking permits or face a hefty fine.

Chris Walle of the Venti restaurant said he feels “a little disgruntled because we have to pay for parking to go to our job. I don’t think it’s a necessary cost that we should have to incur.”

Another item the Salem City Council may review is the ability of downtown residents to park in free spaces for as long as they want.

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