Parking plan may renew old debate
Ex-Democratic mayor critical of return to parking lot fees
Mayor Steve Noble’s proposal to install metered kiosks in municipal parking lots is not a new concept.
Over the years, the idea has popped up in City Hall discussions as lawmakers sought new sources of revenue.
But neither the kiosks nor any other kind of metered parking has materialized in the half dozen or so municipal lots where motorists currently park for free.
Meters in those lots were removed in 2007, and some 500 of those meters were installed along city streets.
Noble said last week that he plans to purchase 15 pay stations and put some, if not all, in the municipal lots.
In 2012, former Alderman Thomas Hoffay,
D-Ward 2, brought up the idea of metered parking kiosks at two Uptown lots on North Front Street.
At the time, former city Public Works Superintendent Michael Schupp pitched the same idea for the parking lot where the city’s Uptown Parking Garage once stood.
That same year, thenCommon Council Minority Leader Debbie Brown, R-Ward 9, who still serves on the council, also supported the kiosks.
“(The) concept of parking meters is old and somewhat outdated,” Brown said in an email at the time. “In the new technology era, parking kiosks are the way to go. (They) are not expensive to install, like parking meters, and there is better control of the monies. Shoppers and visitors can pay by debit cards, cash or credit card.”
Others, like former Alderman Robert Senor, who chaired the council’s Laws and Rules Committee in 2012, was adamantly opposed to any new paid parking schemes in the city.
“It is just another backdoor
tax,” Senor, D-Ward 8, said at the time.
“We have gone through this, back and forth ... and we have already decided that meters should be left out of the parking lots for workers so that they are not parked on the street, making it that much harder for businesses (to draw customers),” Senor said.
James Sottile was mayor at the time when parking meters were removed and the city lots were made free.
Sottile said recently that he does not support the restoration of paid parking in the municipal lots.
If metered parking is restored, he said, employees will shift their vehicles back from those lots to the street, feed meters all day long, and take up “prime” parking spots ordinarily reserved for people doing business.
“I think you have to take in account (free) parking for employees ... to remove them from the streets where the stores are located,” Sottile said.
Noble’s plan also calls for setting up a system where motorists can feed street meters using smartphones. The plan would allow employees with smartphones to feed meters
without having to put change in them, he said.
Sottile argues that the $175,000 the city estimates it will collect is not significant enough to warrant paid parking in the municipal lots.
He said creating economic development as well as housing are better ways to “grow the tax base” and generate revenue.
Hoffay, however, said Noble’s idea is a good one, with “user fee” mindset. If people are using city lots, Hoffay said, they should contribute to their maintenance.
Hoffay pointed out that there are numerous streets
“on the periphery” of the Uptown center business district that have no meters and parking is allowed.
The clamor of the past is likely to resume amid Noble’s proposal. He even thinks so.
“An item that I expect will spur significant interest and dialogue is the planned overhaul of our parking management system,” Noble said in his 2017 Budget Message. “My administration is committed to bringing our parking services into the 21st century, as well as improving and maintaining our parking facilities.”