Finding solutions to Main Street parking is ongoing

The village clock parking lot on Main Street is seen in September 2023. (News photo — Andy Flynn)

The proposed new parking changes along Lake Placid’s busiest parts of Main Street are not settling well with year-round residents.

Making sure all parking is the same at $2/hour — instead of giving a $1/ break at less busy locations — and extending the parking enforcement hours from 6 to 8 p.m. every day of the week (and from 9 to 8 a.m. Monday through Saturday), locals will feel the effects the most.

And when we say locals, we’re talking about the patrons that keep our small businesses going during the slower months — year-round residents who are living paycheck to paycheck in the village of Lake Placid, town of North Elba and surrounding Tri-Lakes communities.

Tourists are on vacation, and they expect to pay for parking. In fact, Lake Placid’s parking and fines are cheaper than many larger municipalities and resort communities. Seasonal residents may see it the same way; if they can afford a second or third home, they can probably afford the parking rates and fines. But everyday families who are the backbone of Lake Placid — keeping the motels, hotels, restaurants and shops running — have felt the stinging pinch of parking regulations for years.

And now, it may be getting worse.

More and more locals who would love to go shopping, see a movie at the Palace Theatre or eat at one of the many fine restaurants without having to pay for parking are staying away from Main Street. And the parking regulations are largely to blame.

That said, members of the village Board of Trustees have tried some parking solutions that help local residents and Main Street employees.

There’s the parking permit system, which is now more expensive (https://tinyurl.com/bdumd9rx). Valid from May 10, 2024, to May 10, 2025, the cost is $200/year for a non-transferable permit, which allows Main Street residents and employees to park in designated areas. There are also non-transferable rates for three, seven and nine months and annual rates for transferable business/short-term rentals, with a maximum of 10 permits.

There’s also the Resident Parking Pass program for people who live in the village of Lake Placid and town of North Elba (https://tinyurl.com/5n8anprc). This non-transferable pass allows pass-holders to park in a metered space for free from 7 to 11 a.m. Monday through Saturday. To be eligible for this pass, people must be a registered voter or legal owner of real property in the town/village. These passes were created in 2023 and are valid through 2025.

The village Board of Trustees is faced with a no-win situation. Main Street parking regulations have evolved to what they are today because village officials are trying to free up parking spaces for the benefit of Main Street businesses. During non-enforcement hours, some workers and residents routinely fill up valuable parking spots for hours, pushing patrons away. That’s why the parking fees have increased, and that’s why the village proposes extending the enforcement hours.

It’s human nature that if you can get away with something, such as taking up a parking spot for hours, you will probably will do it — over and over again. Therefore, village officials have put rules in place that are aimed at changing that behavior. Their strategy so far is to increase fees and extend enforcement hours.

Yet, nothing is 100% foolproof or effective. What happens when trustees and the mayor see the need for more paid parking and even longer enforcement hours? What is the end game? Is this the final solution for Main Street parking? Probably not. So we have to ask — “What’s next?”

Perhaps public transportation hours should be extended with the enforcement hour changes. The Placid XPRSS trolley around the village only runs until about 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday and around 4:30 p.m. on Sunday. See the Placid XPRSS schedule.

This service — administered by Essex County Public Transportation — has been seen for years as a tool in the village’s toolbox to curb the parking problem on Main Street. Village officials have asked people to park in free lots away from Main Street and take public transportation to Main Street. But if people can’t get back to their vehicle after the trolley’s hours, what’s the point?

Let’s at least give our village officials credit for trying to find solutions instead of taking no action and having problems pile up.

For more than a century, the village board has been dealing with parking issues on Main Street. After new paving bricks were installed on Main Street in 1921, there seemed to be more serious debate every year about the parking situation. By the end of that decade, the Lake Placid News gave credit to the village for its actions but essentially said the same things the village board is saying today. The editorial on June 7, 1929, read, in part:

“Still there is much that each of us can do to improve the condition that still exists. … It is impossible to tell just how much cash summer business is lost each season because visitors cannot get near the stores with their automobiles.”

That sounds eerily familiar, and we agree. Yet we don’t agree with the another sentence in that editorial:

“So far as possible, let’s leave Main Street for the tourist and summer guest.”

Absolutely not! Whatever the end game, the village board has the obligation to serve its taxpayers and find a balance for the parking solution that serves everybody — year-round residents, second-home owners, visitors, employees and businesses. A search for that balance will probably never end. After all, you can’t please everyone all of the time. But we have to keep trying.

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