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The Daily Tar Heel

Editorial: Chapel Hill needs more accessible parking


DTH Photo Illustration. A student sits in a handicapped parking spot. 

Parking in Chapel Hill is already a stressful and difficult undertaking. But for the town’s disabled and low-income residents? It’s a nightmare.

Take disabled veteran Darice Johnson. In an interview with The Daily Tar Heel, she noted how she began to avoid the downtown Chapel Hill area — “that whole 10 block radius” — because of the traffic congestion and plethora of pedestrians that make parking challenging and stressful for her.

And while there are parking spots available, the issue for disabled individuals is that they are rarely close to buildings. While most can park in a less accessible spot and walk to their location, these spots leave disabled residents at a disadvantage.

Dwight Bassett, who serves as director of economic development and parking services for the Town of Chapel Hill, said in an interview with the DTH that the Town is currently abiding by all state laws regarding Americans with Disabilities Act requirements. 

But, many disabled residents say there should be additional and more accessible options. 

Communication with the disabled community is essential, and yet the Chapel Hill government has been slow to act when it comes to helping specific members of their community. Plans to eliminate factors working against disabled residents might be in effect, but won’t make a difference overnight.

It's imperative for the Town administration to consult and work with disabled communities to identify areas of improvement for parking accessibility, and to make it a priority — especially with there being new development in the area. However, this also leads to separate issues.

Not only is parking not accessible — it's also not affordable.

The Town of Chapel Hill offers about approximately 12 off-street parking locations, each of which cost $1.50 per hour, while on-street parking costs $1.75 per hour. 

Disabled residents with a placard can park for free in any downtown space, but low-income are more likely to face financial hurdles from parking prices.

That creates a huge problem for those wanting to see all that Franklin Street has to offer. It’s an inconvenience — one that also impacts store owners. 

When a potential customer decides they are unable to pay to park, that’s one less sale a business owner will make. And with Franklin Street rent being as high as it is, that one sale is vital to those who live and support the Chapel Hill community with their businesses. This can directly affect the turnover of businesses in downtown Chapel Hill, such as the closing of restaurants like Lotsa Stone Fired Pizza, MidiCi Italian Kitchen and Jed's Kitchen.

Issues with parking can and will result in a chain reaction if the Chapel Hill government continues to drag its feet instead of taking action. Residents hoping to be active in their towns are unable to. Store owners that rely on business with their customers are limited. 

Parking that is both accessible and affordable is necessary to Chapel Hill, but nonexistent.


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