Sunday, July 02, 2006

Park it

Add paid “valet” parking at the Price Chopper’s badly scarred Railroad Place lot as the latest tug-of-war saga in the Spa City’s obsession with how to cram in more cars.

For those who missed the announcement last week –or the slouching red-coated attendant on a folding chair in the middle of the lot Saturday –the corporate headquarters has decided to start charging people for the use of their lot. Although they haven’t openly voiced their chagrin, rest assured the parking-crazed city council isn’t thrilled about this turn of events.

Aptly called “ghetto chopper” by most locals, the Railroad Place Price Chopper is a quick-stop shop for most city residents and a hangout for many of the city’s unsavory folk. Because of its central location –just two blocks from the main drag – there’s a fair amount of people that don’t even bother to drive to ghetto chopper.

More often than not, the badly dilapidated pothole-ridden lot is a barren wasteland of parking space. Barring the race season, the lotfills up only when the city cooks up a new parade or street festival. And even then, there’s always a space within a few short yards of the market’s entrance.

Starting this week, the store is charging anyone who parks without entering the store a $2 fee for two hours or $5 for the day. The 90-day contract with Valet Parking of America will ensure Price Chopper’s customers of a space at the store, according to a company spokeswoman.

Truth is Price Chopper is wisely cashing in on the laziness of the general driving public as they choke the small streets of the Spa City each summer. And as more vehicles clog the arteries of a downtown region never designed to handle the present volume of traffic, city leaders are left scrambling to find a place to stow more cars.

For years now, there’s been omnipresent bluster in council chambers about where to place the next parking monolith. First there was the construction of the Phila Street deck, which was followed the Woodlawn deck several years later. Although talk about parking solutions has since ebbed –with exception to the recent collapse at the Broadway lot –the thought is still a prevalent part of any conversation about future development.

However, in a city that’s vastly pedestrian friendly, it’s a wonder sometimes that all this developable space is reserved exclusively for a small period of time each year when parking demand peaks, just so that someone doesn’t have to either look for a space on the street or walk several blocks to their intended destination.

To drive this point home, here’s a quick equation for those wanting to hop in their car and drive. With the average person’s walking speed hovering around 3 mph, a trip from city hall to the racetrack or the Saratoga Performing Arts Center is just a 25-minute journey by foot. This figure is roughly equivalent to or even less than driving in the congested traffic often inflicts these areas of the city before and after events.

As added incentive for walkers, the city and county should perhaps consider investing some of their limitless pool of parking money into establishing an affordable light rail system from Albany. It’s been mention amid the talk of Luther Forest and could become a reality, if the city throws their weight into these talks.

Imagine a line that could ferry pedestrians between, Ballston Spa, Saratoga Lake, SPAC, and the city center. Pie in the sky? Perhaps. But there’s a precedent in history for such an innovation and there are seldom-utilized rails already on the ground. Not to mention, it’s a lot more sensible than the ludicrous talks about bussing people into Saratoga Springs from lots outside the city limits.

Ultimately, it may take more profiteers like Price Chopper to persuade people from their thirst for at-event or nearby parking. The days of the strip mall culture are numbered, so those crying for more parking spaces should think instead about investing into the future or at least a nice pair of walking shoes.


Blogger T-Diddy said...

You really think the strip mall culture is on the way out? In terms of architecture, I'm with you -- but the Capital Region is simply more suburb than town. Albany, Schenectady, Troy and Saratoga Springs just can't outweigh Loudonville, Niskayuna, Waterford, Ballston Spa and -- of course -- Clifton Park.

I'd like to think gas prices will enact a real change in outlook, but I'm not buying it in the short term. I'd love to see the light rail, but I'm not sure you can expect the McMansion owner to leave the SUV at home.

9:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hello Saratogians and visitors who would pay for valet parking at Ghetto Chopper. We would be more than willing to park your car for half of what Price Chopper is charging. Just leave the keys in the ignition!

-The city's unsavory folk.

6:39 AM  

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