After much hot air was blown around at the first meeting, the Ocean City Parking Task Force is now getting to work on the true objective of the effort – deciding on how to make more money for the city without hurting the commercial sector, angering residents and alienating visitors.
We advocate for keeping things simple. It often leads to the best results. That’s why we like Ocean City hotelier/restaurateur G. Hale Harrison’s idea of simply increasing hourly paid parking rates for this summer. An argument can be made it’s too cheap to park in Ocean City, a clean and safe oceanfront resort destination. A quick evaluation of other tourist and metropolitan destinations confirms the resort could and should be charging more for parking to ensure daytrippers are paying their way.
“Why don’t we look at raising the rates? The rate at the municipal lots and on the street is $2, but maybe that can go to $2.50,” Harrison said. “The same with the Inlet lot from $3 to $3.50. That might be more palatable for people and meet the revenue needs. Let’s keep it simple. That’s something that could be done this summer.”
We support the approach, but would take it a step further with a small addition of new paid parking. We support the idea of increasing the parking rates across the board by 50 cents an hour with a consideration of a larger increase at the Inlet. Additionally, we would like to see Ocean City consider an approach pitched by Councilman Dennis Dare where some of the oceanside blocks along the Boardwalk become paid parking. We like the idea of making the most desirable spots paid while keeping some oceanside blocks as is for now. It’s reasonable for motorists to expect to pay for parking spots within steps of the Boardwalk and beach. It can be gradual expansion of paid parking to these blocks over the course of years.
We would encourage the task force to wrap up its work soon, presenting an hourly rate increase for existing paid parking as well as identifying ocean blocks that are prime for new paid parking spots. A recommendation of how many new parking spots will be the controversial piece here, but the task force would be wise to put before the Mayor and Council a reasonable number all stakeholders can accept. The summer is nearing and the dollars are needed for this year’s budget.
Once this year’s decisions are made, it’s a good idea for this task force to enter a dormant phase during the season with an intention of regrouping next winter for another evaluation.