After an absence of more than 30 years, parking meters are on their way back in downtown Kent.
High-tech meters are expected to be in place this spring following Kent City Council's approval of their installation at 262 on-street sites in the downtown area. Locations remain to be finalized, but parking spaces throughout the central business district are likely to have metered parking.
The meters, according to city officials, will be "user-friendly" and able to accept not only coins but payments via credit cards, smart cards, tokens and cell phone apps. Parking rates remain to be determined.
The objective of metered parking is to discourage all-day parking in prime locations, freeing those spaces for more short-term use by patrons of food and retail establishments. That makes sense, given the influx of visitors to Kent as a result of development there.
We sympathize with those who will mourn the loss of free parking in the downtown area. Nobody likes to pay for what they've enjoyed free of charge for so many years. But this isn't the 1980s anymore -- and we're grateful for that. When parking meters were yanked more than a generation ago, finding a place to park in downtown Kent wasn't a problem; you could cross Main Street at high noon and have few worries about encountering traffic there.
That's changed, of course, because of the revitalization of the downtown area. Parking is at a premium because people are coming to Kent again. Paying for the privilege to park is one of the trade-offs for progress.
Non-metered parking will remain available at some locations, and our guess is that those spots will become coveted sites. Otherwise, it looks like visitors to Kent will have to become accustomed to paying for parking, just as those who visited there during its retail heyday in the 1950s and 1960s did. The free ride -- free parking -- is coming to an end.