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Was Seiser right about Lake Geneva parking?



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September 24, 2013 | 01:59 PM
“Time will tell if I am right or I end up completely full of it.”

Former editor Lisa Seiser was never known for mincing words.

Back in October 2011 she wrote a column about parking in Lake Geneva.

An astute reader called me last week and suggested I check out that old issue and take a gander.:::

Here’s my report card on what Lisa had to say:

Lisa: “... people complaining about the (kiosks) will soon realize how wrong they were to moan and complain about them.”

WRONG! If anything there is more moaning than ever. I do have to agree that while the kiosks are imperfect, they aren’t much more complicated than an ATM. We managed to figure those things out because they give us money. I have little sympathy for those people complaining about losing their credit cards by sticking them in the clearly labeled slot that says it’s for money. No parking system can properly compensate for the functionally illiterate and blind.

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Lisa: “A parking structure is a fiscal nightmare that will never bring in the revenues to pay for itself let alone sustain itself.”

STILL TO BE DETERMINED. Until recently, I tended to agree with Lisa. If nothing changes in city traffic, such a structure would be nearly empty most of the year. But the recent parking study thinks it’s a good idea. The researchers are supposed to know something and a parking structure has been brought up dozens of times over the year. Will it pay for itself? Maybe not, but the initial purchase would be paid for by TIF funds which are viewed as an investment in downtown — in this case a very long term one. If a parking structure is the magic bullet that finally solves the city’s parking problems, maybe it’s a bullet worth biting.

If this city is going to thrive in the years to come it needs to make better customers of the locals and become more attractive through the winter. If that happens, the parking structure would be worth it. And to make that happen, a parking structure might be crucial. It’s doubtful the price for such an investment will go down and there is money set aside in the TIF fund. Perhaps, like outdoor dining, a future generation will wonder why it took so long to do the obvious.

Lisa: Building a surface lot is “crazy and makes no sense whatsoever.”

RIGHT. Lisa calculated that a surface lot would only be used for no more than 50 days a year. “The other 315 days per year, there is no parking problem in the city.” To my knowledge, no one is proposing a new surface lot — so maybe everyone concluded Lisa is right.

Lisa: Free parking everywhere “is not going to happen.”

RIGHT.

She correctly noted that the city’s not going to give up $750,000 (now closer to $900,000) in parking revenue that helps pay for work on the roads, additional police and public works that are necessary because of the tourists who visit our city and park everywhere.

If parking were free, many of the slots would be filled for most of the day by the employees of downtown businesses — the Regional News included. While I think those workers need some sort of break, allowing all-day free parking is not a solution.

Employers can tell their employees not to park on the street, but there’s no way to practically enforce that.

The remainder of the parking slots would be filled by the first 100 or so people who arrive on a bright sunny day and spend the whole day here. That doesn’t help businesses who need a rotation to come and go from their stores. It would be even more problematic if those people simply go to the beach and don’t allow any open spots for actual shoppers.

And how would the city make up the money it loses? Hmmm. Through taxes?

Of course, the parking issue would all be solved by getting rid of the city’s tourist trade.

Anyone who moved here since the 1950s ought to recognize that this is a tourist community. There’s no way to keep a pristine community a secret. Since we can’t have it to ourselves, we might as well help fund the city through tapping those visitors. 

As for Lisa’s score: A rousing incomplete. It would seem we just don’t know enough yet. Or maybe we know all we’re going to know and need to do something besides study the issue.

Thomas Edison said about failure that it was a way to find “10,000 ways that won’t work.”

It strikes me that we’ve come up with 10,000 ways and none of them seem to work in any significant way.

They can tweak the parking situation forever. Add a spot here and there, put signs up, change the hours — but do any of those really solve the problem?

The one thing that keeps on bouncing up is a parking structure.

Maybe it didn’t take another study to conclude the obvious.

What the city council may need is a mandate to go ahead. Many people have told me that Lake Geneva’s citizens will never be behind a parking structure, so the politicians may be stuck with knowing the right solution, but not being politically capable of pulling the trigger.

The Oct. 7 parking commission meeting would be a good place to be heard.

See our 1A story for more information.

Halverson is editor and general manager for the Regional News.

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