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Pucker up and pay up front: Chapel Hill is changing downtown parking payments

The Town of Chapel Hill's parking lots are transitioning to a pre-paid system.
The Town of Chapel Hill's parking lots are transitioning to a pre-paid system.

Relieving the stress and discontent surrounding public parking in downtown Chapel Hill has become a top priority for the Town Council, inspiring the launch of their year-long Lots to Love Campaign in late April. 

Lots to Love, a project created by Park On the Hill, aims to raise awareness about parking and transit resources for commuters in Chapel Hill.The campaign will replace the ticket systems in the downtown parking decks and lots to prepay systems. Drivers will now estimate the amount of time they will be in a lot and pay accordingly at a meter.

In conjunction with the Downtown Partnership, Lots of Love is promoting a contest where visitors and residents can take pictures kissing in downtown parking lots to enter for a chance to win a $50 gift card to a local Chapel Hill business every month. 

“The switch is more than just moving from the old system to these new meters. It’s all one big initiative to create positive interactions with parking,” said Ran Northam, community safety communications specialist for the town.

Like other students and Chapel Hill residents, recent UNC graduate Conner Nevel said he has dealt with parking issues in town.

“I have been frustrated when I am stuck in a line of four to five cars waiting for their ticket to get dispensed," he said. "I feel like it’s not the most effective use of space, especially when the line spills into the street.”  

That is why Capt. Josh Mecimore of the Chapel Hill Police Department is looking forward to implementing the parking initiative, which he expects will be more reliable and serviceable. 

“The decision to change the ticket lots that were manned by a person to lots that are metered makes it easier for people to pay for parking at their leisure and decide how long they plan to stay,” Mecimore said. “I think that will lead to shorter wait times when people are coming and going from the lots during busy times, certainly on game days and weekends. I think it will speed the transition in parking.”

The Council’s goal is to have all parking systems in the central district be meter-based or paid for via the Parkmobile App.

Enforcement officers will check the lots to ensure that parking spots have been paid for. The parking deck on 140 West Franklin St. has its meters up and running, and the Wallace Parking Deck at 150 East Rosemary St. is set to be compatible with the Parkmobile App in the next two weeks.

Park On The Hill and the Lots to Love campaign are expected to be long-term strategies that will evolve and grow with the town of Chapel Hill.

“We want to show members of the community how much parking is available in the town of Chapel Hill and make the payment system easier for them,” Northam said.

He believes that the campaign will promote positive interactions with parking and make downtown visits a more enjoyable experience for the public.

“That’s what this campaign is all about – that there is lots to love in Chapel Hill," Northam said.

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