Mayor makes case for parking fee hike
Noble tells city business group that extra revenue will pay for upkeep, repair of lots
The plan to double the cost of on-street parking and begin charging drivers to use municipal lots will be accompanied by a commitment to use the increased revenue to repair and maintain those lots, Mayor Steve Noble said.
Noble met Thursday morning with members of the Business Alliance of Kingston to discuss his parking plan for the city. He said the cost of on-street parking is to increase to $1 per hour beginning early next year and that he hopes to have payment kiosks installed and operational in nine of the city’s 10 municipal lots by April 1.
Noble said the city does not own the Downtown municipal lot near the corner of Broadway and East Strand, under the U.S. Route 9W bridge, and therefore cannot charge for its use.
The cost to park in the municipal lots would be 75 cents per hour, Noble said, though there would be an option for users to buy monthly and yearly permits at greatly reduced rates. He said monthly permits would cost $40 each, while yearly ones would cost about $400.
Speaking at Frank Guido’s Little Italy in Midtown, which is across Thomas Street from one of the city’s lots, Noble said the city also is looking at discount options for group purchases or longer-term permits. And he said the city wants to work with businesses to be sure the parking changes can work for them and their employees. Also, the mayor said, there is no proposal to change the times when drivers have to pay for parking: 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday.
Noble said the parking payment kiosks will be user-friendly, allowing people to pay with cash or credit cards. The city also will move to a system in which users can pay for metered parking with an app on their smartphones, he said. The mayor said cyber security is being considered in the selection of the app vendor.
City officials still are evaluating which vendor to use for the kiosk system, according to provided information.
Of the parking details announced so far, Noble said: “We know that this also can’t be the last step.”
He said there also must be a commitment to maintain and repair municipal lots and that he put $100,000 into his proposed city budget for 2017 to fund those efforts without the city having to borrow money or raise taxes.
He also said that as the city puts money aside for its lots, it potentially could buy land in the future to create new parking areas.
Noble said the goal of the higher meter fees and the new fees in the lots is not to fill the city’s coffers but to make sure there is money available to maintain the lots.
He said the free municipal lots always have been something of a “sacred cow” in the city but that the system needs to change so more users pay for parking infrastructure that traditionally has been funded only by city taxpayers.
“I know that, for Kingston residents, this is not going to be popular,” Noble said, and he joked that it probably will keep him from being re-elected in 2019.
He said, though, that he ran for the office last year to bring about changes that will help Kingston, not just to win another term.
In response to questions, Noble said the city will need between 12 and 15 parking payment kiosks to meet its needs, with each costing between $7,000 and $9,000. He said the larger lots will need more than one kiosk.
In the event of a snow emergency, which prohibits on-street parking, there will be no charge to park in the municipal lots, Noble said.
Noble also said he is considering a two-week amnesty period during which people with older parking tickets can pay them without the $20 late fee. He said the city during that period also would have a “food for fines” program in which people could pay their parking tickets with food that would be donated to a local pantry.
Kingston Mayor Steve Noble, standing, speaks during Thursday’s event at Frank Guido’s Little Italy in Midtown. Seated, from left, are Kristen Wilson, grants manager for the city of Kingston; city Comptroller John Tuey; and Megan Weiss-Rowe, the city’s director of communications and community engagement.