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Poor signage & other issues with Jasper parking limits

    Last Wednesday we reported that Jasper City Hall had given the green light for officers to begin ticketing cars parked for more than two hours along Main Street.
    By the time the day was over, we’d had several calls and comments, which began by a man upset there were no signs on the south end of Main Street notifying people of the parking limit.
    The caller was wrong; there are actually about as many signs there as on the rest of the street. But his lack of observation isn’t surprising. You have to search for the signage.
    The signs for those who haven’t spotted them yet are small white squares attached to the green lampposts. And, for some reason, they are mostly well over head-high and somewhat obscured by the streetscape trees.
    We judge the signage to be insufficient in most areas and thoroughly lacking on the end of town near the wooden bridge.
    People who park in spots not near the lampposts will not likely notice them. They’ll be (un)blissfully ignorant of the code, until they find that $20 ticket.
    The backstreets and side streets are marked even more haphazardly. There are no green lampposts off of Main, so no consistent pattern to where signs pop up. Walking along Mark Whitfield and Stegall streets, it is very difficult to surmise whether the intention is two-hour parking for the whole side street or just some sections or limited to particular parking spots.
    The signage is so inadequate, we would argue all tickets written thus far should be tossed out. [Editor’s Note: this isn’t personal as the Progress has a private lot so none of the staff has gotten a ticket.]
    A few other comments that were made to us on the new parking limit enforcement:
    • Overheard was a local attorney arguing that the signs say “2-hour parking customers only.” In his argument, this means it only applies to customers, not employees. A good observation on grammar but we’re not sure it will hold up in court.
    •Back to the poor signage, but this one is directed at the county, specifically the courthouse: There is absolutely nothing indicating there is a free, all-day parking lot behind the courthouse. It’s a steep grade up to the courthouse front door which harms the lot’s appeal along with a tram that operates whenever the mood strikes judicial/county officials. The first thing needed is something letting out-of-towners with court business know there is a lot for them.
    • There are very few handicapped spots in downtown Jasper. There are four right in front of the courthouse but practically none elsewhere and some blocks without any. This observation was pointed out to us for the first time last week. Before we call for more handicapped spaces, we’d like more  numbers on usage and user comments.
   • The parking limit enforcement revealed one fairly depressing fact. When you force all the employees who were parking for more than two-hours off Main Street, several areas look really deserted. The downtown may be much quieter commerce-wise than was previously assumed.
    • One person commented they felt the parking limit directed at employees made them feel second class. But we would retort, the employees do come second. Customers come first.
    • Some people groused that the tickets were a tactic by city hall to gain revenue. We’ll take up for city hall on this. The mayor and council were pushed in to this by people who believe more open parking is needed for downtown commerce. For revenue, the city could stop speeders all day long on the fourlane.
    • Several people commented something to the effect “where else are we going to park,” if not on Main Street all day. However, it appears with backstreets and the courthouse lot, there are plenty of spaces, but they may not be exactly where the parker wants them right at the moment. There is little available space on Main Street to add parking lots and it seems useless to add them if they are more than a two-minute walk out of the way. People won’t use them.
    For us, the jury is still out on whether the 2-hour limits will benefit downtown businesses. It’s certainly a worthwhile attempt to foster the local economy. But we strongly urge the city to take another look at signage, plus need/availability of handicapped spots.