Our cover story this Thanksgiving weekend fulfills a couple of goals. First, it catalogs aspects of living in Madison that evoke gratitude in its citizens, and second, it commemorates once again Madison's 150th anniversary year as it nears its end.
Staffer Linda Falkenstein - for this endeavor we'll call her special projects editor - canvassed the staff and assembled the collection of Madison endearments we present in this issue. It's saying, "We should be so lucky...and we are."
Now, when Isthmus does this type of story, one that extols our civic virtues, we invariably receive rebukes from at least one reader who regards our pride as smugness and accuses us of overlooking our city's shortcomings. So here's something that's not so good about the city of Madison - its rapacious parking policy, especially downtown.
The other day I put a $1.40 in a parking meter to cover an activity that normally takes about an hour. It costs $1.25 an hour to park at a meter downtown these days, unless they've raised it to $1.50 while I wasn't looking - the interval between rate raises seems to be shorter as the tariff gets higher. Well, you can guess the story from here. I got back four minutes late and found myself with a $20 ticket. This is called revenue accrual by "Gotcha." There is no rationale that justifies this level of penalty other than that it hasn't incited mayhem against a meter or meter attendant, that I know of.
And then there's the charming "Special Event" parking at the city lots, pretty much any Friday or Saturday night when there's a show scheduled at Overture. The relatively new automated pay station system, with its programmed rates, is overridden, and extra help collects $4 manually from each car that enters the ramp. This of course causes significant traffic backup, and at the Dayton Street ramp has led to the bagging of meters on Carroll Street to allow for a lane of traffic around the tie-up, with the added benefit, to the city, of removing available on-street parking.
I guess I experienced the epitome of "Special Event" last Sunday when I arrived at the ramp prior to the 2:30 p.m. matinee for Rigoletto. If you had happened to come downtown to stroll State Street or pop into the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art, you were paying $4 too, no matter how long your stay. It's as if the city were saying, "We know where you'll be. We know you'll have money. We're going to get some." Which I imagine is just how pickpockets think.