The proposal by the Newport City Council to increase parking fees from $1.25/hour to $4/hour (a more than 300 percent increase) in high traffic areas and to extend the paid parking season from March to November (“Newport Council Votes to Expand Paid Parking Season,” March 30) is a misguided attempt to generate revenue for the city. This proposal, which is slated for final approval on April 12, will hurt local businesses, discourage tourism, and unfairly burden workers and those doing business in the city.
First, a parking fee increase will negatively impact local businesses, especially restaurants. Many visitors come for a day trip or a weekend getaway and are attracted to the city’s charming streets, unique shops and historic sites. If parking fees become prohibitively expensive, these visitors may choose to go elsewhere, resulting in a significant loss of revenue for local businesses.
The City Council’s claim that increasing the parking fee will create “turnover” dismisses the reality of human behavior. For example, say a visiting family goes out to dinner. Do officials really believe a visitor will rush out on dinner with family or friends to save $4? No, the visitor will finish dinner and begrudgingly spend the extra $4. They will also likely spend less at dinner (skip an extra drink, dessert, or leave less for the server’s tip) and, even more likely, complain to others about Newport’s “price gouging” parking meters. Is extra revenue worth ruining Newport’s reputation and future tourism?
Have city officials ever parked in Newport in the summer? To say parking is limited is an understatement. Why would someone give up a valuable, limited parking spot in Newport in the summer over a few dollars? They wouldn’t. Also, the City Council’s goal to create “turnover” parking is detrimental to both reducing traffic and fighting climate change.
Moreover, extending the paid parking season from March to November will hurt Newport’s small businesses. Many residents from Portsmouth, Middletown and surrounding communities come to Newport to enjoy the off-season peace and quiet before tourist season. Many restaurants also rely on this business during slower seasons. By extending the paid parking season, local visitors may be discouraged, as they will have to pay exorbitant parking fees even during the off-season.
Finally, the proposed increase in parking fees will unfairly burden workers who cannot afford to live in Newport. Did the City Council do any research on how many workers rely on metered parking in light of the current housing crisis? Increasing parking fees will make it more difficult and expensive for nonresidents to park, putting an unnecessary financial burden on those who can least afford it.
In conclusion, the proposal to increase parking fees and extend paid parking season in Newport is a shortsighted measure that will have negative consequences for local businesses, tourism and workers who cannot afford to live in Newport. The city should focus on finding alternative sources of revenue that do not place an undue burden on its visitors.
Sandy McGee Portsmouth