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City parking options need expressed

A path of open communication averts misunderstandings and, generally, can be beneficial to all involved in, or affected by, a decision or new policy.

Thus, the Altoona Parking Authority’s plan to meet with downtown businesses’ owners to gauge support for what has been described as a more organized approach for assigning parking spaces between the 10th Avenue Expressway and 11th Avenue is commendable.

Beyond that, whatever final determinations are forthcoming need to be reported clearly to city residents, some of whom no doubt park in the spaces in question.

Beyond that, that information must be disseminated in a way that will reach non-residents of the city who come to the downtown to access services, shop, for a meal — whatever.

Additional — or improvements to existing — signage could be one approach.

No doubt, some people hesitate coming to the downtown because of what they perceive as difficulty in finding a suitable parking space.

An article in the Mirror’s Sept. 22 edition mentioned people “who would circle the block five times for a street space to open,” before heading back to customer parking in the lot behind the 1400 block of 11th Avenue.

For what presumably are various reasons, “customers are generally not eager to park there,” the article said.

People too young to remember Altoona’s former bustling downtown retail environment probably wonder how the same avenues that exist today accommodated so many more businesses and service entities — and shoppers and their vehicles –than the downtown seems capable of serving within the same overall space today.

But Altoona’s downtown is not alone in that regard.

Downtowns in Pennsylvania cities larger or smaller than Altoona now are much different than they were 50 or 60 years ago. Like Altoona, those places have taken on a new character consistent with the current times.

Unfortunately, like what Altoona is experiencing, those downtowns are less busy and have fewer business amenities to attract people to them.

Therefore, assets like good, convenient and safe parking are extremely important.

Downtown Altoona is undergoing a slow renaissance, but it will not ever experience glory days like those that extended into the early 1960s, before businesses’ exodus to suburban malls and shopping centers began.

What is important at this time is for Mountain City leaders to continue building upon recent downtown successes by making space and services available for new opportunities suitable to the center city environment.

That is what the parking authority is attempting to do by trying to take full advantage of space conducive to additional parking.

Fortunately, the authority recognizes the importance of collecting recommendations from those — like business operators — who are closest to what exists now and who envision the good that is possible from well-implemented strategies.

That is a good foundation for moving ahead and getting the word out that the city is not content with standing still — and is inviting regarding all that is potentially positive.

The authority must continue to report new developments as they occur.

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