Mayor Summey offers free parking

North Charleston Mayor Keith Summey promoted business at Park Circle by advertising the free parking on East Montague Avenue. The video was shared on the city's social media pages a week after about 150 downtown Charleston workers protested the city's decision to increase the cost of parking downtown. 

North Charleston threw shade on its sister city Thursday when Mayor Keith Summey praised the benefits of East Montague Avenue. 

"Welcome to Park Circle, where the business are local," Summey said, "and the parking is free." 

The city of Charleston will double parking costs from $1 to $2 an hour and extend the meter time in effect from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. About 150 downtown workers and business owners protested this decision at this week's City Council meeting. 

Because many low-wage workers, such as dishwashers and hostesses, already face escalating housing prices throughout Charleston, they say higher parking fees will only make it harder to live and work here.

"When you’re already looking at housing that’s getting more expensive, how are we going to staff these kitchens and these hotels that keep popping up?" Michelle Weaver, executive chef of Charleston Grill, asked The Post and Courier last week

The city of Charleston claims an even cheaper and more convenient option is on the way — a new park-and-ride bus system that will shuttle workers from a parking lot on Morrison Drive to the main commercial areas on the lower peninsula.

The city has worked with the Charleston Area Convention and Visitors Bureau and the Charleston Area Regional Transportation Authority on the project, which would initially offer about 170 spaces on city-owned property at 999 Morrison Drive. Users will be charged a $5 flat fee. 

About 7,700 hotel and restaurant employees work downtown, according to the College of Charleston's Office of Tourism Analysis. Its survey last year found that about 80 percent of those workers drive to their jobs, and most end up paying for parking.

More than 150 of these downtown workers and business owners rallied outside Charleston's City Hall. They protested higher parking meter rates and the extra hours of enforcement. 

North Charleston's video premiered a week later on the city's social media pages and was presented to North Charleston City Council on Thursday.

The impetus?

"We're always promoting local business," city spokesman Ryan Johnson said.

North Charleston is not, however, without its own parking complaints. 

Last year, the city doubled the cost of event parking at the North Charleston Coliseum and Performing Arts Center from $5 to $10. This move angered fans of the South Carolina Stingrays games.  

"The feedback from our season ticket-holders and others is that they are concerned about it," Stingrays president Rob Concannon said in February of 2017. "Many of them are older people who need parking close to the arena. With these changes, I don't think it will help us grow as a business. It will hurt us as a business, to what extreme I don't know."

Johnson noted that Coliseum event employees do not pay for parking. 

Reach Hannah Alani at 843-937-5428. Follow her on Twitter @HannahAlani.

Hannah Alani is a reporter at The Post and Courier covering race, immigration and rural life across the Palmetto State. Before graduating from Indiana University and moving to Charleston in 2017, her byline appeared in The New York Times.