Editorial: System failure

With so many rollout issues, it's not too late to to rollback parking kiosks downtown

We don’t blame the 36 downtown business owners who signed on to a letter that was sent to city officials and local media in May to alert them to the fact that their customers were frustrated and angry over the new parking kiosks installed downtown in February, and that their businesses had measurably suffered as a result [see “Parking Meter Fiasco” (June 1, 2023)]. This development comes at a delicate time for local business owners. Many are just starting to see some daylight after living through the nightmare of trying to stay afloat during a pandemic, and they can’t afford a disruption to business let alone lose any customers.

The city’s response to the letter’s plea ranged from various earnest fixes to smooth over the rough transition—issuing free parking vouchers, dispatching kiosk concierges to help navigate the system, removing the 35 cent convenience fee for card transactions (of a dollar or more)—to holding community meetings. Along the way, business owners and the public have been assured that once folks figure out the procedure, especially if they take advantage of the Passport parking app component of the new system, the experience of parking downtown will be more convenient than feeding meters with quarters. Those points may be true, but sticking to that script does nothing to address two untenable realities of the system’s rollout: angry shoppers (a portion of whom left and refused to engage further with the system and vowed not to return) and lost sales. If this was a test rollout (which it still can be), wouldn’t losing customers and their spending money be proof that the new system is failing? Or at least that the rollout failed?

Before anyone reading this starts yelling at the page about how it’s just cranky old-timers who are fighting change, stop and consider who might be spending money at a 150-year-old hardware store, or browsing used books, or ordering a wedding cake, or getting a watch repaired, or buying art and antiques? You might not like their reaction to change, but their support is more crucial to downtown than you might at first believe.

Also consider the fact that the downtown business owners had no say in what a new parking system would look like. Many of them run businesses that have been in place for decades (one for more than a century-and-a-half!). Without them, there would be no need for parking meters downtown. Shouldn’t they get a place at the table when these kinds of decisions are made?


  1. Good article. Also, Saturday parking has always been free and Saturday always seems like a very busy day for downtown businesses. Shouldn’t that be considered as proof that no meters may be the best solution?

  2. I couldn’t agree more with this piece. Let’s get rid of these kiosks, and if that doesn’t happen please remember to vote out council members who disregard the viewpoints of Chico citizens. It’s outrageous that merchants and shoppers had no voice in the process. The politicians represent us and it should be evident in the policies adopted. I think they’ve forgotten that.

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