Valet parking change offered

Valet parking may get a little easier in front of some restaurants.
The City Council Traffic and Parking Committee has taken a first step to facilitate valet parking services, with the long-range goal of creating designated valet parking areas on city streets.
The three-member committee last night unanimously approved creating passenger zones, for dropping off and picking up passengers, at four commercial locations: Commercial Street in front of One Exchange Place, and in front of 166 Shrewsbury St., 82 Winter St. and 50 Front St.
The passenger zones, which were sought by S&K Valet, will be in effect from 5 p.m. to 2 a.m. each day. They will provide an area in front of each establishment where valet company employees and customers can safely conduct their business.
Currently, employees often have to escort customers out of their cars in the middle of the street, according to Jonathan Koop, president of S&K Valet.
"When we're forced to conduct our valet parking business out in the middle of the road, it's a safety hazard for our employees and customers," Mr. Koop said.
He said his company is paid by establishments to provide valet parking services, with three to five attendants at each location. He said the vehicles are taken off the street and parked in a private lot.
District 1 Councilor Joffrey A. Smith, chairman of the Traffic and Parking Committee, said the fact valet parking services have come into greater demand at downtown restaurants underscores how the city is being transformed.
"We have to be able to accommodate the demands and needs of the nightlife going to our restaurants and clubs," Mr. Smith said. "This is a small step to make it easier for people to go to these places. We have to do everything we can to help small businesses in this economy. This is also a public safety issue; it will make it safer for everyone involved. It's long overdue that we establish something like this."
Councilors-at-Large Konstantina B. Lukes and Frederick C. Rushton echoed that sentiment, saying the creation of the passenger zones is a simple and practical way to address the parking problem.
"This is a symbol that Worcester is maturing into the city that is not a horse-and-buggy town anymore," Mr. Rushton said.
But city traffic engineers cautioned the passenger zones will not be for the exclusive use of the valet parking company.
Joseph Borbone, director of engineering in the Department of Public Works and Parks, said anyone will be able to use the passenger zones and they will be able to park "live" there for an unlimited time. "Live" parking means someone has to be in the vehicle with the engine running.
"This may allow you to move ahead tonight, but it is not the solution to valet parking," Mr. Borbone told the committee. "(Valet parking) is a very complicated issue and we are gathering information now to put together a real valet parking proposal that will work smoothly for everyone."
Mr. Smith said his committee would be open to looking at additional information in the future. He said the creation of the four passenger zones to facilitate valet parking services is a good first step, and he does not believe there will be problems with other parking in those zones for extended periods of time. 
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