Pre­pare to pay more

Newark to dou­ble park­ing lot rate dur­ing busiest times

Newark Post - - FRONT PAGE - By JOSH SHAN­NON jshan­non@ches­pub.com

Park­ing in down­town Newark on week­days is about to get more ex­pen­sive.

City of­fi­cials plan to im­ple­ment “peak” and “off-peak” rates for city-run park­ing lots on Main Street. The cost to park will dou­ble to $2 per hour Mon­day through Friday, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The cur­rent $1-per-hour rate will re­main on week­ends, nights and dur­ing the sum­mer.

The change will be im­ple­mented Mon­day or Oct. 23, de­pend­ing on how fast the park­ing soft­ware can be re­pro­grammed, Deputy City Man­ager An­drew Haines said.

Haines de­scribed the is­sue as one of sup­ply and de­mand, not­ing that the lots – par­tic­u­larly Lot 1 be­hind the Main Street Gal­le­ria – are of­ten busiest dur­ing the day. By rais­ing the rates, the city aims to in­cen­tivize vis­i­tors to park in univer­sity park­ing garages or at park­ing me­ters on the out­skirts of down­town, thus free­ing up spa­ces for oth­ers.

The peak rates were first sug­gested by some city coun­cil mem­bers and mem­bers of the pub­lic who noted that many univer­sity stu­dents park in Lot 1 to go to class be­cause it’s close to cam­pus and cheaper than the univer­sity garages.

The peak rate puts the city lots more on par with the univer­sity’s park­ing rate, which starts at $2 per hour but varies de­pend­ing on how long the ve­hi­cle is parked be­fore max­ing out at $10 per day.

Haines ac­knowl­edged the higher charge may dis­cour­age some peo­ple from com­ing down­town, but said that will free up spa­ces for peo­ple will­ing to pay more.

“Other peo­ple may em­brace it be­cause they’ll have more suc­cess find­ing a space,” Haines said. “We ac­cept we may not be able to sat­isfy all cus­tomers.”

This month’s in­crease will be the sec­ond change in the park­ing rates this year, but the first in­crease in the hourly rate since 1999. In Fe­bru­ary, the city elim­i­nated the half-hour in­cre­ment, mean­ing that the charge is rounded up to the near­est dol­lar.

That change, which was ex­pected to bring in an ad­di­tional $100,000 each year, did not have an ef­fect on driv­ers’ be­hav­ior, Haines said. He de­clined to spec­u­late how much ad­di­tional money the peak rate will bring in.

Haines noted the peak rate im­ple­men­ta­tion is a pi­lot pro­gram and its im­pact will be eval­u­ated early next year. The suc­cess or fail­ure will be judged from a fi­nan­cial stand­point and on whether it changes driv­ers’ habits, he added.

The city first stud­ied in­creas­ing the park­ing rates last year when then-Coun­cil­man Todd Ruckle sug­gested an across-the-board dou­bling of the fee. At the time, Plan­ning Di­rec­tor Mau­reen Feeney Roser, now re­tired, said the proposal should be “thor­oughly vet­ted” to avoid hav­ing un­in­tended con­se­quences for the eco­nomic vi­a­bil­ity of down­town busi­nesses. She warned that dou­bling the rate will price park­ing in Newark higher than in nearby com­mu­ni­ties.

Haines said the city ul­ti­mately de­cided on peak and off-peak rates as a com­pro­mise. He noted that the higher rate doesn’t be­gin un­til 9 a.m., giv­ing vis­i­tors a chance to stop down­town for cof­fee or break­fast on the way to work while pay­ing the lower rate. The lower rate re­turns in time for the din­ner crowd.

Changes pro­posed for me­ters, val­i­da­tions

Of­fi­cials also propose to in­crease the cost of park­ing at me­ters in the core down­town area – Main Street west of Chapel Street – from $1.25 an hour (12 min­utes per quar­ter) to $1.50 an hour (10 min­utes per quar­ter.)

Mean­while, lesser-used me­ters east of Chapel Street would be re­duced to $1 an hour.

In ad­di­tion, the time limit on the me­ters east of Tyre Av­enue would be in­creased from two to eight hours. Haines said that, cou­pled with the cheaper rate, could en­cour­age peo­ple park­ing for sev­eral hours, in­clud­ing em­ploy­ees of down­town busi­nesses, to park there and walk to their des­ti­na­tion.

By law, changes to the cost of park­ing at a me­ter re­quires a vote from city coun­cil, which will con­sider the is­sue in Novem­ber. The park­ing me­ter in­crease would be per­ma­nent and would not vary based on time of day or sea­son.

Haines also pro­posed elim­i­nat­ing the city’s sub­si­dies for park­ing val­i­da­tions. Busi­nesses would still have the op­tion to val­i­date their cus­tomers’ park­ing but would shoul­der the full cost, rather than half as the cur­rent pol­icy spells out.

The city loses $60,000 to $80,000 each year due to val­i­da­tion sub­si­dies, Haines said.

Dif­fer­ing opin­ions from busi­ness own­ers

The park­ing fee changes were un­veiled Sept. 27 at a sparsely at­tended af­ter­noon meet­ing of the plan­ning com­mis­sion’s park­ing sub­com­mit­tee. They were men­tioned again at the Oct. 2 city coun­cil bud­get work­shop.

The plan got a stamp of ap­proval from the com­mit­tee, which in­cludes two busi­ness own­ers: Lee Mik­les, co-owner of Grain Craft Bar + Kitchen, and Chris Locke, gen­eral coun­sel for Lang De­vel­op­ment Group and the owner of For­mal Af­fairs.

Mik­les – who ad­mit­tedly is not af­fected much by the in­crease be­cause his restau­rant has its own pri­vate park­ing lot – said he thinks the changes could help other busi­nesses.

“The prob­lem peo­ple have is the per­cep­tion there’s no park­ing, not that its too ex­pen­sive,” he said, adding that he hopes the changes en­cour­age stu­dents to find al­ter­na­tives to park­ing in the city lots. “That will help busi­nesses by mak­ing more park­ing avail­able for vis­it­ing guests.”

How­ever, Caffé Ge­lato owner Ryan Ger­man dis­agreed.

“It’s not the so­lu­tion we need. The so­lu­tion we need is more park­ing,” said Ger­man, an out­spo­ken pro­po­nent of a down­town park­ing garage.

He said he un­der­stands the sup­ply and de­mand ar­gu­ment, but it’s not nec­es­sar­ily ap­pli­ca­ble for down­town park­ing.

“From a small busi­ness per­spec­tive, it’s the op­po­site – we want there to be more park­ing, not less de­mand for park­ing,” he said, adding that he would like there to be enough park­ing that the city could make it free be­tween noon and 2 p.m. to en­cour­age peo­ple to come down­town for lunch.

He said he doesn’t ex­pect the change to af­fect his cus­tomers too much be­cause the restau­rant val­i­dates park­ing and will con­tinue to do so.

“For us, it will raise our bill,” Ger­man said, not­ing val­i­da­tions cur­rently cost him be­tween $1,000 and $2,000 each month.

NEWARK POST PHOTO BY JOSH SHAN­NON

A mo­torist pays for park­ing in Lot 4 on Tues­day af­ter­noon. Later this month, park­ing costs in city-run lots will dou­ble on week­days.

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