Lately I’ve noticed a few aspects of our downtown that give me reason to bitch (as if I have to look too hard for a reason). It’s the streets, sidewalks, parking spaces and those pesky pedestrians commuting within our city center. We’ve got to all come together and make a change or someone’s gonna have to bail me out of jail.
First let’s talk about the streets. I don’t know who thought it was a good idea to put bricks in the middle of the major intersections, but they should have been fired or at least issued a strongly worded reprimand. When the city tore up the perfectly paved cross sections to brick them in, they didn’t fill the gap between the asphalt lane and the brick intersection, so there’s a harsh bump at what seems to me like each and every damn seam. This is not only bad for my tires, but sends a shock wave through my lower back at every bump.
Speaking of bumps, Broad Street and most of the numbered streets between 5th and MLK need to be completely repaved. There are holes, bumps and grooves that have me believing that long ago when these streets were initially laid, they took up the barricades and let traffic flow while the cement was still wet. Not only is this an annoying disgrace, but it’s also extremely dangerous to those cyclists we’re supposed to be encouraging and pedestrians like me who hate tripping over divots on what should otherwise be a continuously flat surface.
This brings me to the multitude of local pedestrians who are literally too stupid to have the right of way. I’m talking about the two most annoying types. First are the people who jaywalk between intersections, slowly inching their way between oncoming traffic much like Frogger did back in the ’80s. But if you squash these reptiles you’ll be brought up on charges. Then there’s the foot-traffic crowd, determined to cross the street no matter what action the flashing orange stick figure on the light pole suggests.
The only thing that’s worse than getting hit by a car when crossing at the inappropriate times is dodging the F-150’s of those drivers from parts unknown who’ve obviously never had to encounter someone actually crossing a street on foot. Riverbend is the worst time of year for pedestrians. Funnel cakes and Miller Lites dangerously impair once alert drivers as they traverse the downtown streets back to Corridor J. Then there’s those random nights of terror—I was almost run over by a Texas-size pick-up truck after the recent Merle Haggard show when the driver thought the green light was only for him.
The biggest obstacle of motoring downtown, however, is parking. Being a savvy native, I know the hidden spots around town where one can park for free for just about any event or occasion. But even I‘m floored by the stretches of prime street locations unavailable for parking at all.
Why does Power Alley between the IMAX Theater and AT&T Field need to be reserved for buses 24/7? Why can’t there be at least meters there on the days when I’ve never ever seen a bus there—like any time it’s dark outside? And why are precious loading zones protected from parking in the middle of the night? Who or what is being loaded at a moment’s notice at any given time? But God forbid, don’t park illegally—at any hour—or you’ll be slapped with a ticket or one of those ugly “Violation” stickers.
The other night I got a ticket for parking in the lot behind the Meeting Place. This is a lot that I’ve parked in for free at night for years. However, the new owners—that locally based toll-taker we all know and don’t necessarily love—found it necessary to charge me $13 to park for the two precious hours between 9 and 11 p.m. You know—prime parking time. I paid it, but I’ll never park there again.
I guess $13 instead of an initial warning is more profitable than future business. At least we still get free parking meters after 4:30 p.m.—if you can find one.
Chuck Crowder is a local writer and man about town. His opinions sometimes create parking problems for The Pulse.