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Newport mulls answers to downtown parking shortage
(China Daily)
Updated: 2009-06-30 13:50

Newport mulls answers to downtown parking shortage

A Northern Fur Seal stretches his mouth on the trainer's command at the New England Aquarium in Boston on Friday, June 26, 2009.[Agencies]

NEWPORT, R.I. – Scott Greenberg reached the breaking point of frustration when he was slapped with a $25 ticket for unwittingly leaving his Honda Accord in a spot reserved for Newport residents.

He fired off an angry letter to city officials, calling Newport the "wild west of parking" and expressing a sarcastic gratitude for the warm welcome. He vowed never to return.

"I tried to do it exactly right. I don't want to go on vacation and get aggravated. I go on vacation so I don't get aggravated," Greenberg, 51, who runs a wholesale fishing tackle distributor in Shandaken, N.Y., said in an interview.

Drivers navigating the warren of narrow, one-way streets of downtown Newport have long endured a frustrating, pound-the-dashboard fight for parking, particularly during the peak summer season when the city swells with tourists and the daily demand for spaces — roughly 20,000 — far outpaces the supply of 6,000 downtown public and private spots.

Business leaders, environmentalists and city officials have been brainstorming solutions, discussing in particular a streetcar or trolley system that could link visitors from downtown to beaches, hotels and major attractions like the historic Gilded Age mansions and the Cliff Walk hiking path.

The goal is to not only ease congestion but also appease the more than 3 million annual visitors who are vital to the city's economy.

"To me, parking is the No. 1 issue that impacts quality of business and quality of life in this city," said Keith Stokes, executive director of the Newport County Chamber of Commerce, which is leading the push for a trolley system. "And the future of Newport is tied to a comprehensive management and public transportation plan."

Details like permits and funding haven't been worked out, and the conversations are still preliminary. But the proposal reflects a broader effort to solve a problem that's long bedeviled this colonial city, whose 8-square-miles are already largely built out or protected lands.

The one major parking garage in the downtown isn't well marked. There's no subway system that connects major sites and public buses can get ensnared in traffic.

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