We'll All Go Down Together

I just got back from Tucson and dropped by Weaver Street Market today for groceries.  While the bright white arrows directing traffic seem useful, Carr Mill Mall's new approach to territory does not.

As I got out of my car, one of the guards lectured three twenty-something people on where they could and could not go. As they looked somewhat nervous and a little confused, he explained that their parking space belonged to "this building" and they could only go in "this building" and if they crossed the street or crossed the lot, he would be watching them and he would know and he would tow them. No question about it. If they strayed across that parking lot, there was a towing in their future.

I wondered if they were from out of town or maybe coming to Carrboro for the first time from their office in Chapel Hill. And how they felt as they got out of their car about being accosted with the news that they were being watched. I know if I was new to a place - having just travelled its ripe in my mind - being stopped and scolded for something I hadn't even done yet would send me scurrying Anywhere Else as fast as I could.

Don't think you can shop for a birthday gift at Alley Cat and then take your kids across the street for ice cream at Maple View. Or as I did the other week, have breakfast at Southern Rail and then buy groceries. Once again Carr Mill Mall's management fails to understand that downtown Carrboro will either suceed as a whole or fail as a whole. I think it's less likely that the guards can keep up with each patron and their car and their location and actually tow anyone than that the threats and supervision will drive people off. Patrons like to feel welcome not warned.


I had my first taste of the new insecurity guard today. I biked to work today and noticed the new paint on the parking lot, but there were no guards at that time. By the time I made my way back to Weaver St. Market early this afternoon, the man in blue was in full force. I needed to get to several destinations in downtown, so I figured I'd park my bike at the Weave. First, he demanded that I bike along the same path as the cars (which I found silly because, um, I was on a BIKE and not driving a car). After rolling past Officer Blue and locking my bike, I walked back across the parking lot toward Milltown. He shouted at me, "you can't do that!" I asked for some clarification, and he assured me that I couldn't park my car there and leave the lot. I was like, "what car? I rode a bike!" After this kinda insane clarification, he let me go on, but I'd already felt both exchanges were not worth the trouble of having stepped foot (or rolled tire) near Weaver St. As someone who's lived on N Greensboro Street for nearly 5 years, it's not a reaction I'm happy to have had.

While it's true that it would be unfair to call you out on using one of the bike parking areas at Weaver Street when it's the motorized vehicle parking area that's at issue here, it would be good for all of us cyclists to occasionally remind ourselves and each other that we are indeed part of traffic, and thus the same rules of the road do apply to us in many ways. Just because we are getting around on totally sweet human-powered vehicles that don't pollute or cost us in fossil fuels or environmental guilt, do keep us more healthy, take up less space, reduce traffic congestion, save us time and money in parking headaches & fees, maintain our youthful perspective, help us to conserve our cash resources and also be creative in many ways by limiting what we can carry, enjoy all seasons as oxigenated and awake folks....doesn't mean we really have the right or need to scoff at the rules of the road. The first paved American roads were made so specifically for the ease and comfort of bicycle riders, and many of the contemporary rules seem unpleasant or inconvenient for anyone using any road or parking lot, but they really are designed as much for our safety and also for pedestrian traffic. While it's great to feel great about riding a bike, being a smug & haughty scofflaw doesn't help us earn any respect as a meaningful part of traffic, and in fact can make the rest of us unfortunate targets. We can claim our space, insist on our rights to travel safely and easily whether to train, to buy groceries or whatever...but like it or not there's a system in place.

Frankly I feel that the more unattractive driving becomes, the better. There is a good deal of talk on this string of comments about conserving fuel, reducing traffic congestion, and a number of comments of the "green" ilk. But the most commonly-made solutions point to more parking of one kind or another, which just encourages more driving. There is precious little discussion on this list about ways that we can make decisions to leave the car out of the picture for some significant protion of our lives if not completely. It's true that there are larger families or people who come from out of town (and coming to Carrboro all the way from Chapel Hill is not really coming from "out of town"), or people who have giant bags of groceries that won't fit into panniers or in a bike trailer. But then there's the rest of the driving population. For example, folks who make a clear choice to drive 2 or 6 blocks to a local bar or restaurant. (I won't go on about the 2 or 6 or 8-block drunken drive home I've seen many folks make on many a given evening).

My car is a tool that comes in handy when there is a real reason that my bike is not a good option. I fill up the tank around the beginning of the month, and aim to make that tank last for the whole month. If it doesn't, then I'm probably driving too much. I drive the car less than 3 times a week, and it's usually to take my kid to practice. 

On the use of space and Carr Mill: As the local population grows, this parking lot has become increasingly dangerous over the past few years. About 7 or 8 parking spots were reserved for Southern Rail, with some of that space reserved for motorcycles and scooters. The restaurant has a good deal of parking behind it, on the other side of the tracks, and its very own bicycle parking area out front.

I doubt that the restaurant & bar prompted the parking squeeze. Before the area near the restaurant being blocked off and the whole parking lot being redesigned, people who did not want to get caught in the long line of traffic waiting for the light at Weaver & Greensboro to change were using the Carr Mill lot as an alternate (and dangerously speedy) route. Though the speed-bumps are intended to slow cars down, they actually work as more of a go-cart race-track feature. I've seen drivers of larger cars going opposite directions trying to make the short-cut this way at the same time become angry & aggressive, honking and lead-footing through the rest of the parking lot. One of the strategies in the lot make-over is to get people to knock it off with the racy dangerous short-cuts. Again, the street congestion could be reduced with healthier decision-making by maybe even just twenty percent of regular drivers around here.

Another reason for the make-over of the lot could well be the numerous accidents there. Personally I know of mutiple bike-car, car-pedestrian and car-car run-ins just in this lot; actually one of the bike-car accidents hit close to home in February.

I've never met anyone in the Carr Mill administrative offices, and though I've seen the effects of some previous silly decision-making efforts, I don't think there's anyone sitting up in the Carr Mill offices trying to figure out how better to put the squeeze on mall or other patrons, or how better to be in total control of everyone who comes around.



We all know that parking is an issue in Carrboro. Carr Mill Mall tries to provide as much space as possible for customers who want to shop at Weaver Street and other stores. While I don't agree with the guard's methods I do agree with his rhetoric. Why park in a private commercial area if you are going to another establishment. It wouldn't be fair for someone who wanted to shop at Carr Mill only to park further away because someone wanted to eat at Milltown.

Guards can not keep up with every patron, but if you warn someone then most people will comply. It is possible that these 3 twentysomethings did something else that was wrong, like drinking in prohibited areas or smoking near an entrance.

Perhaps one way to combat the parking issue is to have Carr Mill build a parking garage, but it will probably stall at some board meeting with the Carrboro leaders.

I don't believe that we all go down together, Padgett Station went down (temporarily) Look Out! Clothing store went down and even the taco wagons went down. Downtown Carrboro is still vibrant and visited by many and don't let the misguided actions of one security guard judge the economic stability of an entire community.

Hey! Why did Padgett Station go down? Never found out. Also, it would be so nice, if perhaps we could somehow get the Buses extended and have proper mass transportation,so we don't have to park.

I have two words to explain this seemingly irrational, control freak policy: Nathan Millian. I think the only solution is to run him out of town.
So... we should have a mob with torches and forks to run him out? Perhaps tar and feather?
This is a different kind of challenge. It's not policy-oriented. It's another ridiculous waste of time created by Milian. I'm not sure how we rid ourselves of his annoyng presence.

I don't even know the man, but I am having trouble understanding why  everyone is so upset.    Carr Mill Mall has a parking lot for its patrons.  They pay taxes on it, they pay to keep it clean, maintaineed, well  lit, and safe.  They pay liability insurance to cover potential accidents and injury.  

And the mall management has  determined that they need to make changes in some way shape or form so that the patrons of their mall can be assured parking.  That's part of why the tenants rent there and not across the street.    The tenants pay a premium to have that parking lot available for their patrons. 

It's likely that  changes that have been made by the mall management are in response to tenant requests for better management of the parking., or customer complaints about not being able to find any parking.     I don't think the mall would invest money in personnel to staff the parking lot and in new wayfinding just to irritate people.      

Maybe the parking lot attendant needs some training on customer service. Maybe there is a "kinder gentler" way to police the parking.     But the mall ownership has an obligation to its tenants to make sure that the parking is available for their customers.      It's not a public lot.    If you want it to be a public lot, then petition the town to buy it.  If you want to generally 'shop' downtown, there are public lots just nearby where no one is going to monitor your parking.   Convenience comes with a cost.    

"It's likely that  changes that have been made by the mall management are in response to tenant requests for better management of the parking."

 That's entirely likely.  As far as I can tell people use the parking lots that don't tow if they need to shop anywhere in the area regardless of shopping.  For example, frequently when I try to stop by the bank to handle some business I can't actually park in the Bank of America parking lot because there's so many people from the Open Eye using it.  I know they're going to the Open Eye because I see them get out of their cars and walk to the Open Eye.

The long term solution for me entails building more infill and density in downtown carrboro, combined with building public parking facilities. Its unfair that Carr Mill should have to foot the bill for everyone who wants to patronize stores without parking.  


The tenants pay a premium to have that parking lot because the patrons pay a premium to shop at Carr Mill stores. Treating patrons poorly, telling them to move their cars after they've dropped money in the mall but need to cross the street to go to the bank or get an ice cream cone is not going to create patronage for Carr Mill.

Try and picture a family in downtown Carrboro for the day - they need to pick up a gift for an adult, a gift for a child, take their son for a hair cut, get some lunch, buy some groceries and treat the kid to an ice cream cone and pick up a new dog leash.

Now imagine them moving their car for each of these errands.

These episodes are pungently reminiscent of the treatment one gets at University Plaza -- and no, you don't have to have done anything else to draw the aggressive attention of the security people there, I know from hard experience. The expectation of the owners of these parking lots is that if you patronize "their" stores and also want to throw in an errand nearby but outside the owner's domain, you still have to get in your car and repark it elsewhere - a waste of time, fuel, emissions, traffic management, and parking space.

I doubt if I'm the only person who chooses not to patronize stores in University Plaza for that reason -- and I'm very sorry for failing to support some long-time occupants there who have been victimized by the Plaza owner's narrow and non-community-oriented vision (of an upscale cluster of exclusive boutiques with dedicated parking for each shoppe).

But I would be very sad - and reluctant - to think about staying away from Carrboro for the same reason, because Carrboro's Weaver-Main St. retail area is a very different proposition from the Univ. Plaza's status in Chapel Hill. It IS the downtown. With the rest of you, I'm mystified by Millian's persisting, "bloody-minded" ideas about what makes for good business for his location -- never mind good corporate citizenship.

I've never understood people who say parking in downtown Carrboro is difficult. Driving in downtown Carrboro IS difficult, because of the poor design where Main St hits Weaver St. But parking is not, because there is always space in the Harris Teeter lot, even if, at absolute peak hours, you have to park behind it. Everything in downtown Carrboro, from Mill Town to the PTA Thrift Store, is convenient from that lot. I can understand being concerned if people are parking their cars in the lot overnight or worse--but harrassing people for going to Weaver St, and then not up and driving (and polluting and congesting our town a little more, I would add) because they want to go to Spotted Dog for a half hour or Nested? Ridiculous.

"But parking is not, because there is always space in the Harris Teeter lot, even if, at absolute peak hours, you have to park behind it. "

 That is absolutely not true.  I've had to stop shopping there because the last couple of Sundays I went to do my grocery shopping and there was not a single parking space either in the front or back.  Carrboro can not use Harris Teeter as a crutch to solve its parking problems!

Its obvious that many people park in whatever lot that doesn't tow is closest to their destination, regardless of who controls the parking lot.  And why shouldn't they?  The merchants need to work with the city to come up with a public/private parking plan that makes this easier for everyone.


While I'm not about to give up my secret spots, I'd argue that there's plenty of parking in Carrboro. DCRP is doing a workshop this semester on the parking situation in Carrboro, and talking to one of the participants in that it sounds like Carrboro actually has more square feet of parking lots than it does of actual retail space; it's just a matter of connecting drivers with the appropriate space. I think there's a lot of promise in finding creative ways to ensure that exisiting parking is utilized to the maximum possible level. If full parking lots are a sign of a problem, perhaps the problem is that not enough people are utilizing the excellent (and constantly improving) bus service, the bike and pedestrian facilities throughout town, or making more efforts to chain their trips and carpool. Up until the point where people give up and head to Durham, I see no problem in making driving an unattractive option.

To all of those who say, "What if I want to go to several different places in Carrboro, but don't want to move my car", then there's a very simple solution. Park in any one of the FIVE public lots. That's what they're there for. Park and walk. Practice what you preach. Just because you feel like being selfish is no excuse to intentionally hurt businesses located in Carr Mill Mall.

I'm coming to this months later, so I don't even know if anyone will be alerted to my presence and respond, but...

 ??Five?? public lots? Where? Until 01Aug I lived in Carrboro for five years, and I can think of only three public lots, one of which I don't believe is public anymore (next to Glass Half Full ... and that lot rarely has open spaces). The lot next to the railway is fairly small, and people there tend to park like idiots (cramming into the center to the point that cars in peripheral spaces have trouble getting out), and the lot at 101 Weaver St. never should have been created -- it destroyed a wonderful patch of greenery in town; and I've never seen that lot more than 1/3 full; and it's not exactly conveniently located (which is probably why it's used so little), by which I mean the shops on that stretch of Weaver St. have their own parking already, so the supposition is that people should park there to walk to other parts of town, which, regrettably, people just won't do.

Ideally, people would be willing to walk a little farther. Ideally, people wouldn't feel compelled to drive or need to drive in the first place. Ideally,... well, lots of things.

So anywho, where are these other two lots? 


Brian Moore for President, 2008! [http://www.votesocialist2008.org]

Again, perhaps the "parking police" need some customer service training.  But I think it is unrealistic to expect the owners of Carr Mill Mall or any other private parking lot  to knowingly watch you park and walk off their property to patronize another location down the street  while other people who want to shop in their location leave because there is no parking for them. 

  And yes, it has happened to me---I got called out at University Square and I was embarassed and upset.  But after I thought about it, I had to admit that it is not their job to provide me with a parking spot so that I can  go to Kidzu or Top of the HIll.   It would be nice if they did, and it might make feel more favorably to patronizing their tenants, but at the end of the day,  if I want to go to downtown,   then I'm gonna have to pay to park in the public lot nearby and walk. 

 I think someone's suggestion that the town and merchants work more closely together to coordinate parking is great and I think it is in everyone's best interests and I hope someone will spearhead the effort.  


I posted the last comment.  I thought I was logged in. Sorry. 

Why not let the town own all parking spaces within some boundary? The Town thru zoning creates the marketplace setting and taxes accordingly. If the town leased parking space from downtown tenants for some fraction of the property tax, then the town could find a direct, town-wide way to manage parking uniformly, obviating the need for parking police. Socialized parking! How can we sell that idea to businesses?

Socialized parking! How can we sell that idea to businesses?
As soon as you figure out a way to sell it, let me know.

Given that most people I saw get stopped over the weekend were headed to Southern Rail/the Station, I'll speculate on the sudden shift: there is a relatively new bar and restaurant sharing that site, and I'm guessing that's put additional pressure on what was already a small lot. It would not be the first time that the management of Carr Mill has made (what I think to be) an understandable business decision (the tenants who pay for the lot want to make sure their customers have first dibs on the parking), and then executed it in an utterly ham-fisted manner. Honestly, you'd think they'd learn...

I would actually love to hear from Carr Mill tenants, the folks at the Rail and other business owners around Weaver St and learn what their thoughts are. Anyone? Anyone? Beuhler..?




I'm thinking that Kirsten's right. Of course we want the parking for our customers. And market customers have to carry groceries to their car. I did see the security guards trying to herd cats in the parking lot on Friday. It was actually somewhat humorous. I didn't hear any harassment but I'm not doubting that it happened.

We were pleased to learn about the traffic patterns because that small parking lot has got to be the most dangerous and unpleasant location in Carrboro. If parking's tight, people's worst driving pattern (learned I'm sure in the north) come to the fore. I'm always amazed at how kind Carrboro drivers are when I'm crossing three streets to get to the employees' parking. So I try to forgive them for their anger and aggression in our little lot.

I'm hoping things will improve - both parking and everyone's courtesy level out there. 

Since their lot abuts on the Carr Mill lot, I thought it might be worth soliciting the opinion of the fine folks at Southern Rail. Here's what Heather Ragan (also co-owner of Back Alley Bikes) had to say:

Yep, the parking lot has had a facelift, and it seems to me that the patrol guys are pretty much trying to help everyone learn how to use the new system in place. I think it's got its pros & cons, but eventually it'll be helpful, despite the fact that it makes things a little difficult for our delivery folks to maneuver. Maybe it will encourage more walking & cycling!



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