A plan to bring more order to the South Side’s entertainment district understandably has generated concerns, with some merchants worried that extended parking enforcement will deter shoppers or diners as much as nightclub-goers. But the initiative, which city council approved last week, deserves a tryout, provided officials revisit the changes down the road and address complaints from merchants or residents.
The city has spent years studying ways to improve the South Side on weekends, when as many as 20,000 nighttime revelers descend on the clubs, bars and other venues on East Carson Street. Traffic congestion, illegal parking, litter, public urination, fights, vandalism and other problems regularly confront merchants, who share East Carson with the entertainment venues, as well as homeowners who live on side streets near the action.
Next year, the city will extend enforcement of metered parking on East Carson to midnight from the current 6 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. Some of the revenue will pay for extra police protection. That’s a great idea. It will help to ensure the neighborhood has enough officers to cover any trouble, without siphoning police from other neighborhoods.
To further address traffic and parking issues, the city will encourage weekend visitors to park on the far side of the Monongahela River — at a lot on Second Avenue near the 10th Street Bridge. A free, continuously running shuttle would transport them between the lot and East Carson. In other words, those who find a space on East Carson and want to pay for it may do so, while those who favor free parking — and evenings free of worry about citations for illegal parking or expired meters — can park at Second Avenue and hop aboard the shuttle.
The city plans to establish a designated area along East Carson for getting cabs or other rides, and the state Department of Transportation has committed nearly $5 million to new crosswalks, signs and other East Carson improvements, enhancing traffic flow and pedestrian safety.
To round out the plan, city officials should commit to expanded code enforcement to make sure venues obey occupancy limits, the fire code and other regulations. An advertising campaign to discourage drunken driving and excessive drinking — city Council President Bruce Kraus broached this in 2010 — would be a good idea, too.
The city has come up with a solid strategy for making weekend evenings on the South Side more enjoyable for all groups. It’s time to put the plan into action.