Free parking on Madison Street is about to come to an end.

That’s good. It’s overdue. The experiment in allowing people to park all the ding-dong day in front of the village’s prime retail and restaurant frontage failed on two fronts. 

Parking, prime parking, in an urban suburb should not be free. Nothing else about building a viable downtown is free for a town. Not the street sweepng, the policing, the promotion. The village of Forest Park should recoup a portion of those perpetual costs through parking fees.

Free parking also failed, as it does just about everywhere, because business owners and their employees actively clog up the prime parking spaces themselves. It’s ridiculous but it seems to be human nature. Free and convenient trump parking cars on side streets for free or, worse, paying for lesser parking in the village-owned lots behind Madison Street. Given the minimum wages that most retail and restaurant staff are inevitably paid and the incentive to leave free parking spaces open for essential customers simply evaporates.

The Chamber of Commerce has long understood this reality and has lobbied for the return of paid parking on Madison for a good long time. Good to see the voice of business being heard.

A couple of final points. At 75 cents an hour, there will still be business people who choose to plug the pay station and park on Madison. So consistent enforcement will be necessary to battle this impulse. When, after paying back the loan from Forest Park Bank to buy the pay stations, the village starts to make some money, good for them, good for us. No crabbing about the village nickel-and-diming taxpayers. Parking meters along Main Street is Good Government 101.