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Free parking begins in Providence retail districts

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) -- Providence, R.I. is offering free parking in its commercial districts to encourage residents to patronize local businesses during the holiday shopping season.

The program begins Friday. It's in effect in downtown Providence; Wayland Square; Olneyville Square; along Atwells Avenue; parts of Broad, Hope, Thayer and Wickenden streets; and on North and South Main streets.

Motorists may park at a meter for two hours for no charge, including on Saturdays. If they stay at a meter longer, they must feed the machine.

The city this week launched its annual "buy local" and "buy art" campaigns. The city says 68 cents of every dollar spent locally stays in Providence, compared to 43 cents on purchases at big-box retailers.