Reader Nish Jamgotch phoned me this month to make a remarkable suggestion: What if the Bank of America parking deck behind Founders Hall were open for half an hour after performances, so people attending plays or concerts could get out for free?
He believes folks like himself, who are elderly enough to need to park as close to the hall as possible, won't want to wait half an hour or more for traffic in that deck to snake out onto city streets after a show. He believes the inconvenience of sitting behind some smog-belching vehicle could be the tipping point in a decision not to attend events -- and, as he observes, cultural institutions can't afford to have anybody drop away these days. His proposal: Leave the gates up to prevent cars from backing up three or four levels. Within half an hour of the event, return the garage to pay status.
He spoke to an administrator in charge of the lot, who made counter-arguments: 1) Diners and drinkers uptown and concertgoers at Time-Warner Arena (and maybe even employees who simply work late) would hear about this scheme and take advantage of it, costing the lot owners too much money. Patrons leaving the Belk or Booth Playhouse might be outnumbered by people who parked their cars for hours, then wanted to get away for nothing. 2) Drivers leaving the deck would still be delayed by pedestrians, traffic already on the street and passing Blue Line trains, which block Fifth Avenue. So even if they leave without paying, they won't rocket out the door.
I never park in that deck, so I don't have a Toyota in this fight. I put my car on the street or in a deck I can leave within 10 minutes, usually the one between Fifth and Sixth streets. It's also possible to park free at a Blue Line stop and pay less to get uptown and back on the train than you'd spend in the Bank of America deck. (Or any deck or lot.) That train puts people out at Third Street or Seventh Street, within four blocks of the Belk.
Jamgotch has one indisputable point: Many concertgoers and playgoers are elderly and don't want to be made uncomfortable by walking long distances or going through unsafe areas (whatever they consider those to be) after a show. Whether or not the inconvenience of sitting in post-concert lines will keep them away from events is anyone's guess; they're lucky to be able to park across the street from the hall for just $5, so perhaps not. But Jamgotch has given us something to think about.