Raleigh mulls musician loading zones

ccampbell@newsobserver.comJune 5, 2014 

— City parking officials say special loading zones for musicians wouldn’t work well in Raleigh, but Mayor Nancy McFarlane still wants to pursue the idea.

McFarlane asked for a report on the proposal after noticing musician loading areas during a trip to Austin, Texas, for the South by Southwest festival. She pointed to scarce parking in front of some downtown venues that force musicians to lug equipment for several blocks.

But Raleigh’s parking administrator, Gordon Dash, wrote in his report that dedicating spaces for musicians could be a hard sell.

“Our curb space is already under heavy demand by the night crowd and our three main decks on the Wilmington St corridor are often filled to capacity by 10 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays,” Dash wrote. “We will be facing increasing pressure by the taxi operators for more taxi zones in the coming months as well as for transportation shuttle zones by carriers who believe they provide a service to citizens as viable and important as transit.”

Dash reviewed musician loading policies in other music hotspots: Nashville, Austin and Seattle. The loading zones are established directly in front of music venues, with permits issued to the venue owner. Musicians borrow the pass from the venue, then move their vehicle as soon as they finish unloading.

Dash wrote that he found challenges with the program elsewhere. Nashville musicians, he said, have been complaining because downtown parking is so limited that the spaces are often occupied illegally.

In Austin, 50 music venues along Sixth Street participate in the program. Seattle’s loading zones aren’t enforced and the signs, Dash says, are “mostly symbolic.”

Dash’s report said Raleigh’s downtown core is far more compact that the three other cities, leading to stiff competition for on-street parking.

McFarlane said the report is helpful, but she’s not giving up on the idea. “I think it’s the first step in having more conversations,” she said.

Local musicians are hoping the loading zones become a reality. When McFarlane first mentioned the idea, it sparked buzz on social media.

“I always get yelled at by meter enforcement/cab drivers for borrowing their precious space for seven minutes,” tweeted Kyle Duchesneau, a member of the Raleigh rock band River City Ransom.

Campbell: 919-829-4802; Twitter: @RaleighReporter

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