With the coming of the Mississippi Arts + Entertainment Experience, which opens the weekend of April 27 in Meridian, an oft-stated question has been, “Where will people park?”
That is a question that seems to be asked each time a new business or facility is proposed.
In fact, that’s been a repeated question going back at least a dozen years in The Meridian Star’s digital archives, and we are certain it was a concern before the Internet and back to the days of horse and buggy transportation. We have a terrible notion of a Blazing Saddles-like scene where a horse is slugged for taking the last hitching post.
In seriousness, Mark Tullos, The Max president and CEO, has been scrambling to secure additional parking closer to the new facility. We liked his thinking when we first met him in 2016 and he talked about the benefits of visitors having to walk past Meridian’s stores and restaurants.
We like the idea of visitors making impulse stops when walking between their car and The Max. Isn’t increasing foot traffic and business in the city one of the primary benefits of having a downtown facility?
But making people walk a few blocks …? That kind of thinking might prompt some readers to tell us to take a hike.
And so we did, or rather reporter Whitney Downard did.
She spent part of each day for a week visiting the city-operated Arts District Parking Garage, which is located five blocks away from The Max. The goal was to determine if the garage had the capacity to hold additional cars and to measure walking time to various city landmarks.
Her report, which we publish today, shows that less than 25 percent of the garage’s approximately 450 spaces are in use on any given day.
The walk to The Max at a casual pace takes less than seven minutes.
(City Hall and the Temple Theater are only a minute away, the MSU Riley Center four minutes away and even Union Station can be reached on foot in 10 minutes.)
Parking at the garage is free.
For users who might worry about their safety, security cameras are present and the garage is part of police patrols. Police report only one crime at the garage in the last five years.
Although most of us could use a little more exercise, we do understand modern-times desire for convenience and instant results. We understand, also, that people with disabilities and the elderly shouldn’t be expected to make a five block walk. The Max plans on-site parking for people with special needs.
The rest of us, though, have likely walked much farther to visit venues in other cities, and paid a steep price for the parking spot.
Opening weekend and days with special events will bring their own special challenges to The Max and its visitors, but on most days we shouldn’t mind the walk.
The gap between parking and venue could create new opportunities for a shuttle service or Uber or taxi drivers. Could the city operate its trolley on a regular loop around the city? That idea could even have the added benefit of bringing hospital workers and visitors into downtown.
Of one thing we are certain. With a city garage operating at only 25 percent capacity, the public shouldn’t have to invest another dime into creating additional parking spaces until that lot overflows.