For years visitors to Portland had a two-step reaction when their downtown shopping trip lasted longer than the time on their parking meter.

The first was the sinking feeling of dejection that came from seeing an official document stuck tucked under a windshield wiper.

The second was sweet relief, when they read the back of the ticket and learned that if it was their first in six months, their fine would be forgiven.

There is not much forgiveness going around in our society, and this policy was a tender mercy, indeed. But unfortunately it is gone.

In an attempt to balance the city budget while minimizing a tax increase, the parking ticket forgiveness program has been eliminated.

Killing the program was clearly the right thing to do, considering the financial straits that the city has been in during the recession.

The parking program would have cost the city $500,000 in forgiven fines this year, and that’s hard to justify when programs were cut while fees, including those at the city-owned cemeteries, were increased.

The good news is that there is another parking program that is still around and doesn’t need anything more than a little publicity. The Park and Shop program allows participating downtown merchants to give a free hour of parking to shoppers who use the city’s garages.

Combined with promotion of the METRO bus service, visitors to Portland should know about this low-cost and convenient way to get around the shopping district without feeding a meter.

The parking forgiveness program will be missed, no doubt. But its departure doesn’t have to be a drag on visits to the city if parking and transportation options are properly promoted.