Downtown Olympia well-served by ambassador

Downtown Olympia businesses did themselves and their customers a big favor this holiday season by hiring a roving ambassador to help shoppers make the most of their time downtown.

Easy to spot in his bright yellow coat, Peter Spotts is like a concierge on behalf of downtown businesses, helping shoppers with information and directions.

Most importantly, Spotts is there to help people figure out how to operate the parking pay stations that sprang up in the city center this summer.

The 50 pay stations replaced the 90-minute free parking zone downtown in July.

By the looks of it, many downtown visitors are still a bit befuddled by the pay stations. They are relatively easy to operate once you get the hang of it, but the first encounter or two can be confusing due to the less than direct instructions and prompts inscribed on each machine.

Unlike old-fashioned coin meters, these machines feature microcomputers requiring users to push several buttons before they receive the receipt, which must be displayed on the vehicle dash next to the curb.

“There have been a number of times I was glad to be available,” the soft-spoken downtown ambassador said, “because people were experiencing some frustration. Hopefully we turned that around.”

Spotts pounds the city center pavement weekdays, four hours a week. The program is offered by the Parking and Business Improvement Area, a business-funded group that focuses on downtown beautification and marketing.

Spotts is no stranger to the business association; he also operates the Green Machine sidewalk sweeper.

The ambassador program is a pilot project. It’s too early to tell if it will be continued much after the holidays.

One thing is certain: It’s been a success this holiday season.