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Residents around Midland Memorial Hospital say it's become a problem people parking in front of their homes. They say they are tired of it, but soon, things may change for the better. Residents tell me it's been a long frustrating road.
Some employees are forced to park in front of the homes and businesses. They hope the new parking garage will help. Ed Cagel lives across the street from the hospital; he says he's battled people parking in front of his driveway since construction began.
"I sympathize with them, but they should have built a garage first," he said. "People don't care, they're going to park where it's convenient."
To smooth things over, Cory Edmondson the Vice President of Support Services says come February first the parking garage will be complete.
"Parking has always been a big issue on our campus." he said.
With 780 new parking spots the hospital will no longer need to barrow the First Baptists Church parking lot. Employees say this will also help, because if they don't take the shuttle from the church parking lot, they will have to walk from a nearby neighborhood.
"We can't wear heals to work, " Lisa Bara said. "There's not enough parking for patients as well."
"It's a great parking garage," Dennis Houghtaling a pharmacist said. "I just won't use it because I prefer to walk."
Edmondson says all hospital construction will be finished March 2013, something Ed Cagel would like to see.
"It'll be fantastic," he said, "If I last that long."
One day Bruce Becker would like to see more bikes than cars parked at his green-oriented 360 State Street apartment tower. One day, he hopes, he even might turn the north side of the fifth level of his new garage into a tennis court.
Meanwhile, he's opening a new garage with high-tech extras aimed at saving energy and encouraging drivers to pedal their way or take the train to work.
For now,few people even know about the garage has opened to the public. Few know about its nifty features, like digital signage telling you how many spaces are open and on which of the five levels.
On Wednesday Becker plans to correct that when the garage "officially" opens to the public. By way of promotions, the 500-car garage will be absolutely free to all parkers in the last week of January.
The new 500-apartment 360 State complex is the current poster building in Connecticut for transit-oriented development, the idea of building compact, mixed-use projects near trains and buses. But some people still drive and need to park their cars; hence the garage. In the interest of promoting alternatives to driving, Becker is offering a full month's free parking at his new garage for possessors of a monthly Metro North commuter ticket .
You also get a month free if you sign up for the Elm City Market, the food co-op scheduled to open on the tower's ground floor this summer.
After that, you pay $159 a month - not for a designated spot but any slot that's free; or you can use the garage on a daily basis.
Plastic For Parking Only, Please
Oh, and it's credit card only for every transaction. During a Becker-guided tour of the relatively empty green garage Friday, Paul Corriveau pulled up to one of the check-out kiosks.
Corriveau (pictured) got out of his scarlet colored Toyota, read the digital message, and declared, "I don't have a credit card. How the hell do I get out of this place!"
Becker introduced himself . Because the young West Havener was having an exceptionally bad day, having spent four hours at court filing for Chapter Seven bankruptcy, 360 State Street's top guy gave him a free voucher to insert into the slot instead of a card.
According to Bob Fleece of LAZ Parking, which manages the garage, there are only perhaps two incidents a week like Corriveau's, in which case an attendant, reachable through the intercom, comes to the rescue and takes cash.
With only two such instances a week, does it make sense to have a salaried person in a booth accepting stealable bills? Becker asked rhetorically.
Becker was asked whether, even with all the "green" amenities and efforts to steer people to public transit, adding so many new parking spaces to downtown in fact promotes more car travel. His response:Ultimately he'd like to see all the residents being without a car, and the garage used by daily transient parkers as ended. Meanwhile, the complex wouldn't be able o bring in a (needed) downtown grocery without parking attached.
Becker said that ultimately the garage's priorities serve two groups: Monthly parkers and those who will be shopping at the soon-to-arrive Elm City Market.
Monthly parkers get an electronically read decal on their windshield which automatically opens the gate. "It's similar to EZ Pass," Becker said.
Elm City Market users will have free parking and validation. Whether you have to be buy a certain amount at the market and whether there will be a time limit, those details are to be worked out, Becker said.
The double-sized elevator at the western end of the garage (in the back of this photo) will rise directly up from the street-level market and should hold two shopping carts and about a dozen people, Becker estimated.
Thus far with 180 leases signed at 360 State, Fleece reported to Becker that 145 residents have signed up as monthly parkers. (For them it's $100 a month; it's $159 for outsiders.)
Since 15 of the 145 are two-car families ,that means the building has already attracted 50 people without vehicles.
"Fifty people living downtown who determine to have no car," Becker said, with evident pleasure.
In addition to a bicycle storage room, which appropriately is behind Devil's Gear Bike Shop on the Pitkin Plaza side of 360 State, the complex's ground level has room for 100 bikes. An outside corridor extending off it has room for 100 more. This space also houses a pedicab or two, which ultimately will be delivering groceries for the market, Becker suggested.
There are two Zipcars in residence as well.
For those who do the deed of driving, Becker said he is proud of the garage's features, including the neon lights on the perimeter of each level. They automatically go off through a sensoring and motion system that saves 60 to 75 percent of what would be spent for electric energy.
That and all the other systems get their juice through the building's pioneering fuel cell, which will also provide free electrical charges at up to six charging stations, yet to be installed.
"There's a lot of technology here," Becker declared.
Signs Save Gas
He pointed to the digital display telling you how many spots are available on each level. The number of slots available is also readable on displays on the ramps ascending the levels.
So that if level four is filled, no need to go exploring; you stay on the ramp to the next level where there's a spot.
"Think of all the gas we'll save," Becker said.
He argued that an additional value of that feature is if you're rushing to make a train at the State Street train station, those minutes you save might make all the difference.
After he gave Paul Corriveau his free voucher (Corricvau had parked at 360 State previously with a credit card, and termed it excellent), Becker also took in the new traffic signal on State Street and the median cut below.
The additional light on State between Court and Chapel now allows a left turn going north on State into the garage.
"That's a million dollars," he said. The investment includes a video sensing device that tells the left turn arrow to go on if it sees a car approach.
Think of the hundreds of people who will now not have to drive an extra half mile around to come down State and access the garage from the north, Becker said.
More gas saved.
Metro-North increased the number trains starting out toward Grand Central from the little station across State Street from the complex to two an hour during rush hour, in part due to a campaign waged by Becker. However, the printed schedule has not caught up with that available online.
He thinks word about that needs to get out better for his garage to do what it's intended for.
"It's better for merchants" if while waiting for the train, people park and then they can buy coffee and a paper [in the 360 State Street neighborhood]," he said. "There's not much down by [Union] station."
"Every time I go to a Town Green Special Service District meeting, I hear there is no parking in New Haven," Becker said. "And, look, this garage is mostly empty."
When word does get out, will other customers push out the priority parkers, the shoppers and monthlies?
"While anyone who wants to park here can, if we're overwhelmed, we'll adjust our rate structure. We may raise the rate $5, and there will be fewer [daily] parkers. Market will drive demand," Becker said.
As to tennis with a view, it just happens that the dimensions of the fifth level of the parking garage on the north are 120 feet by 60 feet, that of a tennis court, Becker said.
Parking Meter Fines Possibly On
the Rise in Columbia
The Columbia City Council will vote on the possibility of doubling city parking meter fines at Tuesday's meeting.
Currently, the fine is five dollars. A vote at Tuesday night's city council will determine if the fine will double to ten dollars, or not. This would be the first time the fine will have changed in eight years. View Video News Story
On any given day, between 11,000 and 12,000 people are seeking parking spaces on the campus of Middle Tennessee State University
The challenge is to stay ahead of the need.
"We have between 12,000 and 13,000 parking spaces. Even at peak times, we have somewhere between 700 and 800 (open) spaces," said Ron Malone, assistant vice president for events and transportation. "But they may not be where everybody would like to have them."
The key, he said, is to make it easy for individuals to park a car and take a shuttle to get them where they want to go on campus in a timely manner.
Phase three of MTSU's parking and transportation plan should be completed by Aug. 15, adding more shuttle bus lanes on campus as well as a new roundabout.
MTSU officials are to meet Wednesday with Rock City Construction Co. of Nashville to set a starting date for the work. Money for the $4.9 million project will come from the program services fee that students pay.
Shuttles in use
The university has 12 shuttle buses and, except for the beginning of each semester, uses 10 of them on various routes on campus.
"As we improve the availability and timeliness of shuttles, more can feel better about parking in outlying areas," he said.
The overall master plan is to move MTSU toward a more pedestrian-friendly campus.
Malone's hope is that as students, faculty and visitors arrive on campus, the last thing they have to concern themselves with is finding a parking place.
"I think we are definitely heading in that direction," Malone said. "We are not there yet, but we are getting there."
Norwalk Hospital is scheduled to begin construction this month to replace a 35-year-old parking garage with a structure that will have nearly 200 new spaces for patients and visitors.
The $22 million garage will have full decks on each level compared with the half-deck structure of the current facility, allowing an increase from 430 spaces to 628 spaces on the same footprint, Norwalk Hospital director of facilities Jim Haynes said.
The project will also improve pedestrian safety into and out of the garage, with the new elevator emptying into the lobby of the hospital instead of across from the front entrance, which is heavily used by cars entering the garage, Haynes said.
"You won't need to walk where the cars drive into the garage," Haynes said. "They will come up into the main lobby and won't have to walk in the driving lanes."
The replacement of the old garage, which was built in 1974, will provide elevator access on each level and improve access to a proposed Ambulatory Pavilion to house the hospital's outpatient treatment facilities, according to Jeryl Topalian, executive director of planning and business services.
The hospital has applied for a required Certificate of Need from the state health department to build the pavilion, Topalian said.
"There has been an increase in volume as we've added more services over the course of the years and we anticipate needing to be able to accommodate that on our site," Topalian said.
During the 14-month construction period, patients and visitors to the hospital will be directed by signs to the Maple Street walk-up entrance where valet and self-parking entrances to a surface lot will be available, Haynes said.
Physicians and other hospital employees have been relocated to a nearby parking lot and will be brought to the hospital by shuttle bus, Haynes said.
A popular commuter lot in Prince William County is about to lose most of its parking spaces, county officials said Thursday.
Potomac Mills mall General Manager Mike Sullivan said the Woodbridge outlet store shopping center will reduce the number of commuter spaces from about 1,000 to 275 on Feb. 14. Sullivan said the reduction is needed to make way for commercial development.
"We had a business decision to make," Sullivan said. "This is private property; we run a business, and we want to have enough parking for customers and employees. We've helped the county out over the years . . . but it's the county's job to provide commuter lots."
Sullivan said the county requires Potomac Mills to provide 275 spaces. For more than 20 years, however, mall officials have provided four to five times what the county required. Sullivan said they did so to give the county time to build lots.
"I don't understand their reasoning," said Woodbridge resident Shenell Shepard, who uses the lot daily to "slug," or join impromptu carpools, or ride the bus north for work. "Many days I am here, I go into the mall, so I would think having the lot brings them business. And it's a good community service."
Like Shepard, other commuters were shocked to hear the news Thursday night. Commuters said that the commuter parking area at the mall is full by 7:30 a.m and that many of the surrounding commuter lots are also bursting at the seams. The rest of the mall's 7,900-space parking lot, they say, is not full many days during the week.
"They already cut the commuting spaces once," Shepard said. "I don't know what I am going to do. I wonder if some people may gravitate to the Virginia Railway Express."
According to the Potomac and Rappahannock Transportation Commission Web site, there are 15 commuter lots across the county.
"This is just another reason why the residents need transit options, not just wider roads but the extension of Metro, bus rapid transit and more capacity on VRE," Prince William Supervisor Frank J. Principi (D-Woodbridge). "We certainly welcome the economic development, but at the same time . . . it's a bad situation for commuters and slugs."
Board of County Supervisors Chairman Corey A. Stewart (R-At Large) said about two-thirds of the county's workforce leaves Prince William for work. The county is looking for other places for commuters to park in the short term. Long term, he said, the county wants to expand the Horner Road lot by 800 spaces. Stewart said the county has been trying, so far unsuccessfully, to secure about $5 million from the state for the expansion.
"I don't blame them for taking their spots back, because they are a business, but at the same time, there are not enough places to park," said Dale City resident Marc Massman, who commutes to Arlington County for work. "The county government is responsible for finding more parking. . . . They charge us a bunch for taxes; give us something in return."
Sullivan said the business expansion plans surfaced a few years ago but were halted when the recession hit. Now, he said, businesses want to expand again and he needs to guarantee there is enough parking for new and existing businesses.
"While we realize the impact that this change will have on commuters, as a private business, our first priority must be to provide for the needs of our loyal shoppers, retailers and employees," Sullivan said in a letter sent to The Washington Post. "We must also accommodate continued growth . . . and these additions will require assurances that we can provide ample parking for their customers and employees."
Sullivan said he could not release the names of potential new businesses because of negotiations with various retailers and restaurants, some of which are interested in building facilities in the parking lot.
"I can see their perspective," said Prince William resident Jim Bean, who commutes from the Potomac Mills lot. "Parked cars don't bring in revenue. I guess I'll have to get here even earlier or start driving."
Several visitors to downtown Detroit events Saturday were met with a surprise when they returned to their cars: parking tickets. Among them was Tabatha Johnson.
"We got a ticket? For what?" she said. "Downtown shouldn't do that. They're making enough money."
Johnson, 35, of Detroit parked on Fort Street alongside the Penobscot Building. Johnson's car and more than a dozen other vehicles near the building got slapped with $30 parking tickets. The city typically does not write parking tickets on weekends, though parking meters indicate there is enforcement from Monday through Saturday.
Mayoral spokeswoman Karen Dumas cited a mix-up, because city officials had decided that parking enforcement, aside from fire lanes and handicapped spots, would be relaxed on Saturday, the first public day of the North American International Auto Show.
After a call from the Free Press, Dumas said parking enforcement was suspended for the day.
"We don't normally write tickets on the weekends, and it's not in our best interest to do so when we have thousands of visitors" in the city, she said.
Dumas said that anyone who got a ticket Saturday can contest it.
No one who has tried to cross an area bridge over the Schuylkill River lately needs to be told that with the Keim Street bridge out of commission and the Route 100 bridge constricted to one lane, that it's getting kind of hard to get around at rush hour.
Local officials have been tinkering with changes to intersections and the timing of lights to try to allow traffic to move as smoothly as possible.
However, a move to further restrict parking along South Hanover Street during the evening rush hour was itself delayed Monday after several business owners and customers came out to object to the idea.
The idea under consideration is to change the parking ordinance and prohibit parking along the east side of South Hanover Street from the railroad tracks up to High Street from 4 p.m. to 9 a.m. weekdays.
The idea is that restriction would go into effect after the businesses along that strip of street are closed and it would add an additional travel and turning lane during the evening rush hour.
"Traffic in town is already a nightmare," said Borough Council Vice President Mark Gibson. "I was stuck on Route 422 the other day at the Hanover Street exit and it was backed up all the way to the off-ramp."
When PennDOT closes the High Street bridge over Manatawny Creek later this year for reconstruction, things are only going to get worse, Gibson said.
"Things are going to get worse before they get better," he said during Jan. 5 council work session.
However, three business owners along that strip of road said further restricting parking there would make things worse for them and their businesses.
"The 15-minute parking there is enough of a strain as it is. It's the biggest complaint my customers have," said Nancy Leaming, owner of The Natural Cat pet products store at 6 South Hanover St.
"Some of them are carrying 30- and 40-pound bags to their cars. If they can't park in front of my store, they will have to park on High Street or elsewhere," Leaming said.
"And 4 to 6 p.m. is my busiest time because my customers work for a living. If that parking is removed, it may really be the end of my business," Leaming said.
One of her customers, Alyssa Braunsberg, agreed.
"I shop between 5 and 6 p.m. and taking the parking away will make it very difficult," Braunsberg said. "I don't want to see Nancy gone. I rely on her for a lot of things."
Burke Meyers, who runs the Meyers Automotive repair shop at 18 S. Hanover, also objected.
"A no parking sign would drastically affect my business," said Burke, who noted after 4 p.m. is frequently when his customers are coming to pick up their vehicles.
Having a parking restriction "would be more than enough excuse for them to go elsewhere," said Burke.
The problem, Burke said, is that there are two lanes of travel from the Hanover Street Bridge to the railroad tracks, which then merges into one, and then the parking area becomes a right-turn lane.
People often use that northbound right lane "as an acceleration lane to cut back into the center," said Bob Leaming, who owns 200 E. High St. on the corner with South Hanover Street.
"It's not very nice, but that's the way it is," he said.
Both he and burke said the problem is with the traffic light at High and Hanover, which does not allow enough time for northbound traffic to get across High Street.
Leaming said he conducted an "informal" traffic study - "don't worry, I won't charge you $10,000 or anything" - and found that about 20 get through the light; "about 12 of them go straight; about seven go left and only one per light make the right."
Therefore, opening up right lane traffic by restricting parking would do little to alleviate congestion because few of those vehicles are making right turns anyway.
Council agreed to table the idea until it gets more information.
Borough Manager Jason Bobst said he and local officials will meet with PennDOT officials shortly and he will suggest looking into getting traffic counts, "since there seems to be some resistance from the business owners and the impact on traffic might not be that great."
York City Councilman Henry Nixon said he's heard complaints about the new Saturday parking meter enforcement in downtown York, but he still supports the policy.
As residents and merchants prepared for the new hours -- which began from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday -- Nixon said he fielded concerns from people at Central Market. But free parking is available across the street, he said.
"You pay for parking in the city," Nixon said. "You pay for parking in all cities. I have very little patience for all the complaining about parking."
By the end of March, drivers in Seattle will pay new rates of up to $4 an hour for on-street parking spots.
And several neighborhoods will have meter fees until 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday, two hours later than they do now.
The changes are part of the city's strategy to keep turnover in its 13,500 paid curbside spaces high and have one or two empty spots in every block, finding that "sweet spot in parking occupancy," according to city traffic-management Director Charles Bookman. That might reduce congestion and promote retail business, if travelers waste less time and gasoline cruising the streets looking for parking.
It also will bring in an extra $8 million this year, the city predicts.
Transportation managers divided the city into 22 neighborhood zones, and will boost rates in nine, keep them the same in nine and cut them in four.
The top rate will apply to First Hill, downtown and Pioneer Square. The lowest rate is $1 between Seattle Center and Highway 99. Pay-to-park times will be extended to 8 p.m. in eight areas, including Pioneer Square, Capitol Hill, Belltown and the University District. Parking will remain free on Sundays.
Several cities are experimenting with so-called market-based pricing, among them New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles and soon Portland. Vancouver, B.C., is dabbling in nighttime meter fees.
Besides encouraging turnover, Seattle has the potential to make more money, of course, especially downtown, where Mayor Mike McGinn has guessed people would be willing to pay as much as $6 to $7 an hour, comparable to private garages.
The City Council's budget set a $4-per-hour limit for 2011, but the city nonetheless predicts it will collect $35 million from parking fees this year. Last year, it collected about $27 million with short-term rates of $1.50, $2 or $2.50 per hour.
Future tweaks might include fees that vary by time of day, or seasonal rates. Belltown, with its nightlife, might be busier after dark, while the Ballard Locks area fills with visitors in summer, for instance.
"Over the next several years, we will find out what works by doing detailed studies of parking occupancy," Bookman said.
The city government has relied on ever-increasing money from parking fees, taxes and a half-million citations a year. Last year, parking raised a total of $70 million, preventing cuts to the $313 million transportation budget.
First Hill cost doubling
The steepest increase is on First Hill, where city studies in mid-November found curbside spaces completely full. The city is raising the $2 hourly rate to $4.
"I wouldn't pay $4 for an hour. I don't ever need to come here," said Mike Sumi, who parked there for lunch with his girlfriend Friday afternoon before his shift in a South End restaurant. He questions the notion that higher prices will make more space available.
"It's two hours max, so you have to come and go quickly already. The people who need to be up here will pay for it. The people who don't, won't."
Patti Gorman said she remembers free parking in most places when she first moved to Seattle in 1974.
"It's just a way to raise revenue," she said, having parked on First Hill to use the bank, then give at the blood bank. "I think people should be able to get around the city and use the city. Making parking expensive is just a burden."
Prices also are rising to $2 in the Cherry Hill area just east of Seattle University. At the $1.50 rate, some people already park on the quiet side streets, which have a two-hour limit for nonresidents. The paid spaces tend to fill in the morning but open up in the afternoon, said Lennie Sanders, who drives there three times a week for physical therapy at Swedish Medical Center. A price boost wouldn't change his behavior. "The time I come here is time I have to spend," he said.
Parking rates were chosen based on peak-time patterns, said Bookman. If spaces are more than 78 percent filled, the price ought to go up. If they are less than 58 percent filled, prices should decline, a city report recommends.
But one revelation was how in downtown and First Hill, spaces filled quickly and stayed that way all day, Bookman said.
Peak time all the time
The Downtown Seattle Association praised the market-rate philosophy, but criticized the use of peak-time data.
"That would be like pricing tickets for regular-season Seahawks games based on the ticket price charged in the Super Bowl," said Jon Scholes, vice president for advocacy and economic development.
Bookman replied, "If we don't manage to the peak period, we will not achieve our policy objective of one to two spaces open on average, for the most critical part of the day."
There are no plans to extend paid parking into other busy neighborhoods, such as the West Seattle Junction or upper Queen Anne Hill.
A city report also acknowledges a major weakness: In some places, 40 percent of parking is unpaid. These include government cars, as well as those with disability placards or license plates.
Scholes suggests limiting disabled parking to four hours, and cracking down on fraud.
"SDOT (Seattle Department of Transportation) knows they're being abused," he said. "You can free up space, and raise revenue, without raising rates," he said.
Residents often threaten to take their shopping dollars to suburbs such as Bellevue, where Bellevue Square Mall developer Kemper Freeman Jr. has always provided free private parking.
"A lot of people tease me for this issue, that it must be reason to celebrate," Freeman said. But only 2 to 5 percent of his clientele comes from Seattle, and he expects Seattle's higher parking fees to have no effect on his mall.
Instead, Freeman called the increase a symptom of "myopic vision" that makes Seattle less accessible as a retail and service center.
The head of the city's parking authority is continuing to prod Albany to think bigger as it drafts its long-awaited residential permit-parking law, and his ideas could mean state workers who long opposed the system might not be kicked completely off the curb.
Michael Klein, the Albany Parking Authority's executive director, ruffled feathers in October when he went so far as to suggest that city consider allowing residents to sell their downtown parking privileges, presumably to a eager pool of state workers, for a profit on a secondary market.
Despite tepid support for that idea on the task force appointed by Mayor Jerry Jennings to hash out how the downtown parking system will work, Klein -- a task force member himself -- has nonetheless continued to promote models that would not freeze out commuters completely.
Klein's latest proposal involves a hybrid system that would allow the city to issue parking permits to residents, business owners and -- in limited numbers and for a higher price -- some non-resident commuters.
Boulder, Colo., uses a similar system, selling non-resident permits on a first-come-first-served basis on blocks where the parking space vacancy rate exceeds 25 percent during the day -- meaning the spots sold to commuters are not depriving residents of places to park but merely using excess capacity.
While the non-resident permits would sell for more than those for residents, they could still be cheaper than the state charges public employees for the most coveted garage and lot spaces close to Empire State Plaza, Klein said, describing how the system might work if the city chose to pursue it.
He stressed, however, that the permit system's primary function should be a low-cost benefit to residents.
The revenue from the non-resident permits could be used to improve the specific neighborhoods where the commuters park, Klein said, adding that giving state workers a measure of buy-in might help preserve the system in the long run.
After more than two decades of haggling, the Legislature approved Albany's permit system last year on the condition that it be limited to a two-year pilot, after which state lawmakers would evaluate its success or failure.
State workers' unions sued to invalidate the city's last permit system in 1988 and have bitterly opposed the creation of a new one ever since on the grounds that it unfairly penalized their members without actually solving the underlying lack of available downtown parking.
The measure finally passed last year laden with compromises, including that no more than 2,750 of the roughly 9,000 spaces within three-quarters of a mile of the Empire State Plaza can be off-limits to those without permits.
If the city wants to see it extended, Klein said, it might do well to give state workers reason not to fight it.
"I think that's the market force that lets this survive the two-year sunset clause," Klein said at the task force's Friday meeting. "It will no longer be an issue if there's something in it for everybody."
It's not clear whether Klein's idea will win the support of the panel's other members, who include city Treasurer Kathy Sheehan and four members of the Common Council that will ultimately have to pass the law.
Councilmen Dominick Calsolaro and Anton Konev, both of whom represent affected neighborhoods, said they would not be opposed to considering the idea once the residential permit system is in place and if studies show there are unused spaces.
The panel received two more parking surveys from the city's Traffic Engineering Division on Friday: One conducted the during the day and one conducted at night.
There was a 20 percent vacancy rate during the date on the 11 blocks surveyed during the day, with just a 10 percent vacancy rate at night -- numbers that seem to confirm that the daytime permit system will solve just half of downtown's parking dilemma and not address the jockeying for spaces among residents that goes on at night.
The city plans to repeat the studies in the coming weeks on a day when the Legislature is in session, which the task force chairman, Councilman Richard Conti, said should give a fuller picture of the parking landscape and whether or not the hybrid system will work.
"It's an element that we have to spend some more time discussing," Conti said. "Part of the purpose of this license plate survey was to get a handle who parts on the streets and at what time of day."
Meanwhile, the panel spent much of its time Friday refining other aspects of the proposed law -- including how to make permits available to businesses and whether to award a finite number to households or any resident within the designated permit zones.
New Arena Brings Parking Woes
Gia Vang / KEZI News Eugene
January 14, 2011
View Video News Story
The opening of Matthew Knight Arena means new parking woes. Those who live around the complex witnessed all the congestion Thursday night.
If you were driving around searching for a parking spot on a non- game night, you'd have no problem. But you would have have been hard pressed to find a spot Thursday.
"I felt like a salmon spawning upstream. I just saw lots of headlights coming from the opposite direction. I seem to be the only one wanting to leave this neighborhood," said Marcelle Stay.
Crowds flocked to the area, thousands finding a place to park on the street.
Neighbors say they came early and filled what are typically empty lots, to the brim. They say it was similar to what it's like when there's a football game at Autzen Stadium.
"It worked out pretty much like it used to, just a lot more foot traffic and then louder in that respect," said Justin Demeter.
For some, the more the better, especially if they're trying to turn a profit for themselves by charging $10 to park a block away.
"We didn't move our cars out of the driveway, so we only had one spot to fill and it filled right away and so we're thinking next game if we move all of our cars out of the parking lot, they'll all go right away," said Spencer Kelly.
Now that they're gone, car tracks are all that's left of the busy evening. They're also a reminder about the congestion the area's newest neighbor will bring.
"People are use to it being quiet over here, but it is what it is," said Stay. "It's what we grow to expect here in the University District," said Demeter.
Some options for future games are to buy an advanced parking pass to park on the street for men's basketball games in advance, pay $10 to park in a number of university lots 90 minutes before the game, or take the shuttles for a smaller fee. View Video News Story
The controversial installment of parking meters downtown could get a boost from a national animal rights group that hopes to advertise on the meters -- with scantily clad women selling an animal-free diet.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, commonly called PETA, sent a letter to Mayor Kelly Kirschner Thursday expressing interest in advertising on the coming high tech parking kiosks.
The proposed image features a woman dressed as a police officer, wearing a belly shirt, leather gloves and handcuffs. "Going vegan is your ticket to good health," the ad reads over a half-peeled banana.
In its letter, PETA says the ads will help make residents here slimmer while fattening city coffers.
"We're sure that many of your residents dread the new revenue-raising parking meters that will soon line downtown Sarasota's curbs, but our idea will give drivers something to smile about," PETA officials wrote in the letter. "We would like to pay the city to place ads on the new meters, featuring a sexy traffic cop."
The message, PETA officials hope, will inspire Sarasotans to consider eating less meat as they park downtown.
"We are really hoping that Sarasotans will see our ad and that it will inspire them to get healthy and go vegan," said Alicia Woempner, PETA's special projects manager. "We hope this ad will get some attention and get people's hearts racing."
The Virginia-based group says they have not yet heard a response from Kirschner.
The mayor was among the commissioners that pushed for the meters amid outcry from local business owners who fear the meters will scare away business.
And as some claim the meters are nothing more than a money grab for the cash-strapped city, the advertising revenue could ease the pain for drivers -- at least financially.
Earlier this month the City Commission agreed to pay $510,000 to bring in parking meters for more than 600 curb-side spots downtown before summer.
PETA, Woempner said, was watching and saw the opportunity to advertise here, where "62 percent of Floridians are overweight or obese."
"This really seemed like a perfect opportunity for this ad," Woempner said. "Going vegan is the best way to get healthy."
A day after the commissioners in Darby Township voted to increase fines for those who try to reserve street parking, many residents still hauled plastic chairs and trash cans to the road to block off a snow-free spot.
But in 28 days, police will begin enforcing a state law to prevent highway obstruction. That means anyone caught trying to save a space can be fined $300 to $1,000.
Commissioners in this Delaware County community voted unanimously Wednesday night to increase the fines, which used to range from $25 to $300.
In a township where clustered rowhouses make street parking competitive under the best circumstances, residents interviewed Thursday say they're angry about the measure.
But no parking spot is worth $300.
"Our block gets nasty this time of year," said Charles Jackson, 18, a senior at Academy Park High School who lives on Pine Road. "People put in the work and dig out the car - nobody wants to come back to a spot that's taken."
Still, Jackson says he won't risk a fine that steep. "We'll have to think of something," he said.
Darby Township is taking a more aggressive approach than Philadelphia. So far this year, Philadelphia has issued no citations.
"If the cops do come, if there is an issue that can't be resolved among the neighbors, then we take everything off the block and discard it," Lt. Ray Evers, a Philadelphia police spokesman, said about the chairs and trash cans and chairs. "But we try not to get involved. We have a lot of other things to do in the city than get involved in parking disputes."
Squat rowhouses line Pine Road in the Lincoln Park neighborhood of the township, and there's only about enough space for one car per house. But some households use more than one car, and when snow piles wipe out some spots altogether, fighting for parking sometimes comes to blows, said Siearra Anderson, 17, a senior at Academy Park High School.
People start "yelling at each other and fist-fighting over it," said Anderson, who grew up on the block.
Even signs for disabled-only parking don't deter people from taking spots on the block.
"These people do it in the summertime," said Francis Grobes, 62, who said he has back problems. "I have to put out a trash can if I go up to the Acme."
Police Chief Robert Thompson said the parking problems blossomed during the heavy snowstorms last winter. In some neighborhoods, including Lincoln Park, nearly every spot was barricaded with chairs or trash cans, he said. The practice continued into the warmer months.
"At some point, a guy needs a place to park," Thompson said.
Last winter, police did not issue a single citation, but when they were called to break up parking-related disputes, they would clear the street of trash cans and other space-savers, Thompson said.
This year, Thompson said, the police will "reeducate" people to "get everybody's attention." That's enough to make many change their space-saving ways. "I'm not getting a $300 fine," Jackson said.
But Grobes is less concerned. "There's going to be no way to enforce it," he said. "You can't put a ticket on a trash can. How are they going to prove who put it there?"
State grant money may help fund a new parking garage on South New Street in Bethlehem, but the money will first have to get the approval of incoming Gov. Tom Corbett.
Outgoing Gov. Ed Rendell's administration on Thursday released a list of redevelopment capital assistance program grants, including $2.75 million for the garage and $2 million for the redevelopment of the Simon Silk Mill in Easton.
Also on the list is $500,000 for a new interchange linking Main Street in Palmer Township, near Tatamy, and Route 33.
The projects have received commitment letters for funding from the state, but Rendell spokesman Gary Tuma cautioned that the change in administration -- Rendell's last day in office is Tuesday -- creates some uncertainty as to whether the commitments will be met.
Corbett spokesman Kevin Harley said any promise of funding made by Rendell that is not sealed by a completed and signed contract will be reviewed by Corbett when he takes office.
If a contract is completed and signed, the new administration will have no choice but to honor it, Tuma said. "That's a legal contract and the commonwealth has to execute it," he said.
There are several RACP grants targeted for projects in the Lehigh Valley that have reached contracts with the state. Those include $1.25 million for the new St. Luke's Hospital Riverside campus in Bethlehem Township and $300,000 for the Pomeroy's building in Easton.
But most others such as the proposed parking garage in Bethlehem, the interchange in Palmer Township and the silk mill in Easton are only in the commitment letter stage, according to the list from Rendell's office.
Still, some local officials are optimistic the state will come through with the money, noting that their projects are rapidly advancing.
Panto confident Easton will get its share of funds
In Easton, the $2 million for the Simon Silk Mill redevelopment off North 13th Street will fund infrastructure work on the roughly 14-acre property.
The city and its redevelopment authority have been piecing together funding to complete environmental cleanup and infrastructure work to make the sprawling and challenging project more attractive to private developers.
Also tapped for $2 million is the intermodal facility proposed for South Third Street in Easton, according to the list.
Easton Mayor Sal Panto Jr. said city officials have been meeting with state officials about extending the deadlines to spend money for the facility, which will include a parking deck and bus depot. The state has agreed to extend the deadlines until April 2012, he said.
Panto said he's confident the city's funding is not in jeopardy as contracts are either signed or in process of being signed and progress is being made on projects.
"These (projects) are not only under way, but we have $3 million in property acquisition signed for the intermodal," he said.
The city will officially purchase the former Marquis Theater on Monday and neighboring Perkins property on Feb. 1 to make way for the facility.
More than $23 million in Bethlehem projects listed
In all, Bethlehem would stand to receive $23.55 million from the grants, including $7.5 million for Majestic Realty's redevelopment of 441 acres of former Bethlehem Steel Corp. land and $6.25 million for the redevelopment of Martin Tower.
Previously unannounced, Bethlehem's new parking garage would be built atop a surface lot between Third and Fourth streets and be an asset to the South Side's central business district, Bethlehem Mayor John Callahan said.
"More parking would strengthen our existing businesses and help build our retail business in the area," he said.
The city's parking master plan completed two years ago identified the South Side central business district as not having enough parking, Callahan said. City officials would like to build a garage with space for stores to front South New Street with parking above and behind, Callahan said.
City officials have yet to estimate a size, cost or timeline for the garage, Callahan said. The state money requires matching funds, but Callahan couldn't say whether the garage could be built for $5.5 million.
As for the Route 33 interchange in Palmer Township, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation last year approved a point-of-access study for the proposal.
Proponents of the interchange say it will attract millions of dollars in development west and south of Tatamy. Construction costs were initially projected at $25 million.
The Los Angeles City Council decided today to lease several parking garages for a quick and massive infusion of cash into the city's depleted coffers, but granted concessions to business and community groups that have been seeking continued discounts on parking fees.
Details of the concessions were not disclosed to reporters because the discussion was held in closed session.
All City Council President Eric Garcetti would say when asked whether concessions would diminish the value of the properties was "any changes could lower (their value), other ones could increase their value."
City Administrative Officer Miguel Santana said the city's proposed terms for leasing the parking garages will be presented to potential bidders Friday.
The council listened to hours of public testimony today from business and community groups demanding to continue paying only $2 to park at the Hollywood & Highland lot, and nothing to park at the Broxton lot in Westwood Village.
Santana warned that imposing those restrictions on the parking lots could turn off potential bidders, resulting in less lucrative offers.
However, Garcetti said he could not completely ignore the concerns of business owners in Hollywood, which is part of his district.
"As someone who has seen parking help revitalize Hollywood and in turn provide taxes for the entire city, I listened carefully to what the Hollywood community was talking about," Garcetti said.
"I can't and won't ultimately support something that doesn't satisfy the shared concerns I have with the Hollywood community to keep momentum going. Parking is a critical piece of that."
Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said the City Council "faced a tough choice" and "did the right thing" in agreeing to lease the parking garages.
"This decision keeps the city on a path charted last May when we unanimously chose to include this proposal in the adopted city budget," Villaraigosa said.
"Moving forward with a proposal which maximizes the value of the city parking garages is a critical part of our plan to restore Los Angeles to financial health."
Santana said the city needs to make $200 million to $300 million from leasing nine of its parking garages to private operators for 50 years.
Of that amount, $53.2 million is to be used to eliminate most of the city's budget deficit in the current fiscal year.
Meanwhile, the council postponed until Friday a decision on whether to authorize another round of drastic budget cuts.
Villaraigosa said fact that the city has not yet generated any revenue from the parking garages and is $26 million short on tax revenues made the budget cuts necessary -- unless labor unions agree to significant concessions.
"I made it clear: I'm going to have to move ahead with more layoffs," he said today.
"I do so not because I relish it -- nobody wakes up in the morning and says, `I want to cut services, I want to cut jobs' -- but unless we get the kinds of concessions that we need from our partners in labor, we're going to have to move ahead because we will balance this budget," he added.
Santana had recommended an additional 10 furlough days for employees who are already required to take either 16 or 26 days off without pay.
The additional furloughs could shut down entire departments every Friday or every other Friday from Jan. 30 through June 30.
Other recommendations included further slashing the budget of the fire department, which is already idling 22 fire engines and nine ambulances to save money; furloughing the Department of General Services police officers who provide security to city buildings; and cutting the graffiti removal budget in half, among other cuts.
Santana said the budget cuts may prompt the general managers of various departments to lay off personnel. He noted they have the authority to hand out pink slips.
If the plan to lease parking garages falls through or fails to meet revenue expectations, Santana said the police department should also suspend hiring.
Without revenue from the parking garage lease, the city would be $62.7 million in the red in the current fiscal year. Another $350 million deficit looms in the next fiscal year, which begins July 1.
The neon orange envelope stuck under the windshield wiper of a car parked on a downtown street contained a ticket that said, "Welcome to Tampa. This is only a warning."
About 1,000 parking meters downtown have been yanked out over the past few months, replaced with posts that have a parking space number at the top. Somewhere along the block is a parking kiosk where parkers must visit before they head out to conduct their business, have their lunch or hit the courthouse or city hall.
The solar powered pay stations accept coins, and Visa and MasterCard credit or debit cards.
As long as they can remember their parking space numbers, parkers can pay for their space at any pay station, not just the one closest to the spot.
City parking officials know the new system is confusing some people and have instructed parking enforcement officers and downtown guides to help perplexed parkers and hand out pamphlets.
Tampa's parking division manager Jim Corbett said not much feedback has come into the office.
"A lot of folks need assistance," he said, "but with downtown guides and officers we are able to catch a lot of people on the street using machines for the first time. It's moving along pretty well. Once folks understand new rules and guidelines, they seem to comply with them."
All the pay stations have been installed, but there still is some tweaking going on, particularly on Twiggs Street near the county courthouse, he said.
"All that should be done by this time next week," he said. "We're probably 97 percent operational at this time."
Parking enforcement officers are giving breaks to first-time offenders, he said. They are issuing warnings without a fine if they come across a vehicle that has not paid for a spot. When a warning is issued, a "how-to guide" is inserted in the warning jacket. Should the same vehicle fail to pay for a space on a second occasion, he said, an expired meter citation will be issued with a fee of $25.
He said the times of day when parking enforcement takes place doesn't change from the old system, but parkers will need to walk to the parking pay station to find out.
"All parking patrons should go to the nearest pay station after they park and enter their space number," he said. "The pay station will tell the parker if fees are being collected."
If parking fees are not in effect, a red screen will pop up stating "no charge" and then display the hours of operation for that particular spot, he said.
The only information on the individual post is the space number, he said.
"Our goal was to not confuse the patrons by cluttering up the posts with excessive information," he said.
The pay station generally won't accept payment if the metered space is not in operation. But to accommodate patrons who park before 8 a.m., the pay stations have been programmed to allow them to pay for their time then, so they won't have to return to the pay station at 8 a.m.
Parkers can now begin paying for those spots as early as 6 a.m., Corbett said.
Depending on the location, hours of enforcement vary, he said.
Meters around the Channelside district and the St. Pete Times Forum north to Whiting Street are enforced from 8 a.m. until midnight, Monday through Saturday.
Between Whiting Street and Kennedy Boulevard, meters are enforced from 8 a.m. until 8 p.m., Monday through Saturday and 1-8 p.m. on Sunday.
Meters in Ybor City's historic district are enforced from 8 a.m. until 3 a.m. the following day, Monday through Saturday.
Meters in all other areas are enforced from 8 a.m. until 6 p.m. Monday through Friday.
The pay stations have replaced about 1,000 of the city's existing 1,425 single-space street meters, primarily in the central business district bounded by Tyler Street on the north, Selmon Crosstown Expressway on the south, Nebraska Avenue on the east, and Ashley Drive on the west.
On-street parking tickets carry fines ranging from $25 for an expired meter to $251 for parking in designated disabled space.
The city paid $2.1 million for the new system, prompted partially by complaints about archaic meters that accepted only coins, and in some cases, just quarters.
He said the 146 pay stations are enough to handle payment for about 1,000 street parking spaces.
"It is important to remember that a patron may use any one of the 146 pay stations in downtown Tampa," he said, "regardless of the block where they have parked."
In most cases, during the week day, parkers can only buy up to two hours of time before having to come back and buy more. The exceptions are the spaces around the county courthouse where the time limit is four hours.
"After 5 p.m.," Corbett said, "regardless of the space location, a parker may purchase unlimited amounts of time until the metered space is no longer in operation for the day."
He said maintaining the new system is cheaper than trying to care for all those meters.
"We spent a fair amount on labor and cobbled spare parts to put the meters back in operation each day," he said.
Disabled parkers can still park at any of the designated disabled spaces throughout downtown without having to pay a parking fee and they can stay there as long as they need, Corbett said. Parkers are required to display their disabled hang tags or disabled license plates when parking in designated disabled space.
If disabled motorists park at a regular metered space, they will have to go to the pay station and enter their metered space numbers. They will be given the option of selecting the disabled parking rate, which allows them to park for free for the first four hours. After that, they must move their vehicle or pay the regular rate for additional time.
The old meters are being stacked up in storage areas, Corbett said.
"Our goal is to inventory and sort out the better conditioned operating meters," he said. "We still need to replace the remaining old mechanical, single-space meters with the better conditioned electronic single-space meters.
"We plan to use the city's online auction system to sell the remaining meters to the public," he said, "or most likely another municipal agency."
An increase in the parking tax in Findlay -- the first in 15 years -- means airport parking operators will have to absorb the cost or pass it on to customers.
Starting Feb. 1, the combined Findlay and West Allegheny School District taxes on parking transactions are expected to increase from 9 to 11.5 percent.
The school board will vote Wednesday on raising its tax to 2.5 percent from 2 percent. The Findlay tax rate will increase to 9 percent from 7 percent.
The tax applies to every parking transaction in lots and garages at Pittsburgh International Airport and in privately owned pay-to-park facilities in Findlay.
The tax has been the same since it went into effect in 1995 at the airport and 25 years ago for private operators such as Charlie Brown's Airport Parking on Flaugherty Run Road.
"[The parking tax increase] is something that we are vehemently opposed to," Charlie Brown's operations manager Craig Brown said last week. "It's either going to affect our bottom line, which might lead us to decrease our workforce, or we're going to have to pass it onto our customers. We haven't come to that decision yet."
Charlie Brown charges customers the parking tax in addition to the regular rate. A 2.5 percent increase would cause the tax on a $50 weekly rate to rise from $4.50 to $5.75.
At the airport, parking rates include the tax and will not increase immediately, said Dave Paga, manager of Grant Oliver Corp., which operates the short-term, long-term and extended parking facilities under a lease agreement with the Allegheny County Airport Authority.
"Right now, we have no plans to increase rates," Mr. Paga said last week. "We are going to look at what the tax increase is going to do to the revenue stream before we make any adjustments."
He expected to review revenues after the first quarter of the year.
Mr. Brown said his parking and shuttle business -- owned for the past 29 years by his father, Charlie Brown -- faces competition from the airport and other parking operators, including ones in Moon and North Fayette, Mr. Brown said.
North Fayette levies a 5 percent parking tax. Moon does not charge a parking tax.
"There's another competitive disadvantage that we have to take into consideration," Mr. Brown said.
Other parking operators subject to the tax include Air Marino Airport Parking and The Parking Spot, both on Flaugherty Run Road, and Pittsburgh Airport Parking Valet Service at the airport.
Findlay hotels, such as the Four Points by Sheraton and the Comfort Suites, must pay the tax when charging patrons specifically for parking services, township manager Gary Klingman said.
Township supervisors voted in December to approve a parking tax increase from 7 to 9 percent, a measure expected to produce $700,000 this year, Mr. Klingman said.
West Allegheny school board members are expected to vote Wednesday on the other half-percent to generate an estimated $173,000 for the school district, interim business manager Glenn Mamula said.
The district covers Findlay, North Fayette and Oakdale.
Mr. Klingman said the township negotiated the increase with the airport authority, then applied it uniformly across the township.
Parking operators collect the tax and redistribute it to the township and school district, township attorney Alan Shuckrow said.
Mr. Klingman said Findlay needed more revenue to balance the 2011 budget and had to decide whether to raise taxes on parking patrons or township property owners.
"We've got people who are losing their jobs, fighting to keep their houses," Mr. Klingman said. "And with the economy the way it is, to lay a [higher] property tax on them when you have another choice was not the most prudent thing to do."
According to a five-year agreement approved by the authority, the township and the school district, the new parking tax rate must remain the same through Dec. 31, 2015.
In the agreement, Findlay and West Allegheny agree to continue assisting the airport authority with development projects and supporting tax incentive programs.
Findlay supervisors' chairman Tom Gallant, who works as a flight attendant for US Airways, said the airport is important to the township not only because it produces parking tax revenue, but also because it attracts commercial development to the area.
"The airport is invaluable as an economic generator for the township," Mr. Gallant said.
San Francisco officials may use street-sweeping trucks to catch vehicles parked illegally, as the city looks to increase parking ticket revenue.
The proposal was part of a plan to issue more tickets that was unveiled by the Municipal Transportation Agency on Tuesday. The San Francisco Chronicle reports that the cameras would be attached to the front of the trucks and photograph the license plates of vehicles parked illegally in street-sweeping areas.
Other proposals call for increased enforcement of fines for blocking intersections and reducing the amount of time people can park for free at broken meters.
The agency is about $7 million short of the $99 million it has projected in parking ticket revenue for the current fiscal year.
Electric Car Charging Station
Unveiled in Rochester
Amanda Theisen / KSTP News
January 12, 2011
View Video News Story
You'll soon have plenty more places to fuel up in Minnesota, but not at a gas station.
The city of Rochester is the first to have a public charging station for electric cars. More will show up in the Twin Cities this year.
Rochester Public Utilities unveiled its first charging station for electric vehicles this week in the First Street Parking Ramp. It cost about $8,000 to install.
Two vehicles can hook up to it at a time. Drivers pay $1.50/hour to charge their cars.
RPU says it will likely install more charging stations in the coming months.
There is one other charging station in Minnesota, located in the First National Bank building in St. Paul. It is a privately owned and operated station. Minneapolis and St. Paul plan to install public charging stations starting this year. View Video News Story
In the past, control gates at the Longwell Garage in Westminster have malfunctioned and angry drivers trapped inside have broken the gates to escape.
"The damage costs more than what they owed for parking," said Public Works Director Jeff Glass. "It doesn't always occur when drivers are stuck; sometimes people are just walking by and snap them off."
Within the past few years, the gates have been damaged about five or six times, costing the city $200 each time to repair.
Such incidents may be prevented if the Westminster Common Council approves a proposal to replace the current parking system with parking meters, Glass said. Permit parking would still be available. The proposal was introduced at Monday night's council meeting in city hall.
Currently the parking garage is operated by CTR Systems' credit card-based payment system, which requires a software upgrade to meet financial industry standards that would cost $21,400, he said. It needs an upgrade because the means of transmitting information from credit cards isn't as secure as it should be, he said.
CTR Systems, based in Warrendale, Pa., is a single source provider of payroll, time and attendance, parking revenue control and access control services and solutions, according to www.ctrsystems.com. A standard monthly parking permit at the garage costs $30 per month and the hourly rate from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. costs 50 cents.
It would cost the city $17,495 to add 100 parking meters, installed by the city's street department employees, Glass said. A meter monitor would have to frequent the area more often, but it would still cost much less in comparison to upgrades and continued maintenance of the current system, Glass said.
"In the long run, that's probably going to be the most economical road to take," Glass said.
Westminster resident Monte Leister uses the garage four days each week for a total of eight hours. Though the current system sometimes doesn't print receipts or accept his credit card, he said he would rather keep the current parking system in place.
Leister said he'd rather not have to collect quarters each day to feed the meters.
"I'm pretty happy with how its works now," Leister said.
Mayor Kevin Utz said the possibility of adding parking meters would be further discussed at the council's Jan. 24 meeting. Utz said he wasn't sure if parking meters would be the best choice because many people wouldn't want to add change to the meter every 30 minutes.
To avoid checking the meters constantly, the city could program the meters to accept enough change for up to eight hours, Glass said. Installing change machines could make it easier for people, he said. Councilman Tony Chiavacci said he likes the idea and recommended looking into change machines that accept $5, $10 and $20 bills so people can have more options to obtain change for the meters. Glass said it would take about four to six weeks for delivery of the meters and a few more weeks for installation.
Councilwoman Suzanne Albert said the meters sound like a good idea, but she hopes most people who use the garage feel the same. Meters would be more economical in the long run, she said, because the current system might need another upgrade in the future. Albert said the current system does make parking easy, but if people have change for the meters ahead of time, meters could be just as easy.
"Looking at the feasibility and the acceptance, and the fact it would be cost effective, it sounds like that's the way we should go," Albert said.
Tammy Black, of Manchester, parks her vehicle in the garage five days per week and buys parking passes for her volunteers at Access Carroll, a nonprofit that provides medical services to low-income people. Black, executive director of Access Carroll, said she is in favor of parking meters because it would be much easier and save money.
She said the current parking structure has been problematic for some of the volunteers at Access Carroll.
"Three of the doctors have had their credit cards eaten by the machines," Black said.
The MBTA said yesterday that it plans to offer new, easier ways for commuters to pay at parking lots across the state, such as setting up a website that offers monthly passes.
The program will begin in February and will be based at the MBTA's website, www.mbta.com. The passes are $70 and can be bought with a credit card.
Before the announcement yesterday, the Globe reported that MBTA officials have started to more aggressively enforce the collection of fees at T parking lots and will track down scofflaws who repeatedly cheat the system.
Approximately 66 of the T's 100-plus lots - with 24,546 spaces - have a self-pay honor system that hundreds of people have taken advantage of without paying, officials said. The T has lost about $1 million revenue as a result, at a time when it is facing a $100 million budget deficit for the next fiscal year, the agency said.
"It's our obligation at the MBTA to recover every dollar we can,'' MBTA General Manager Rich Davey said yesterday during a news conference at South Sta tion. "One million is a lot of money given the budget deficit we have, and this is a way to capture revenue.''
Under the honor system, commuters must stuff dollar bills into a marked space on a payment board. The marked spaces on the board correspond with the numbered parking spaces.
Davey said yesterday that the payment method is outdated and that the website will allow commuters to buy a monthly pass. They can then place the pass on their dashboard.
The MBTA also runs a pay-by-phone system that is used by about 30 percent of the customers who park at the lots, Davey said.
"The bottom line is the current system we have is old and antiquated,'' Davey said, adding in a statement: "This new customer service makes it easer than ever to pay for parking.''
The MBTA has collected more than $22,000 in overdue parking fees since it started to track down scofflaws and send them warning letters. Typically, scofflaws are sent a note telling them the fee has been unpaid, and they are fined an additional $1, though many still do not pay. The new letters warn that a scofflaw's car can be towed if the fees and fines continue to go unpaid.
Davey said his agency is targeting the people who repeatedly cheated the system. For instance, one scofflaw refused to pay more than 200 times, he said. "Frankly, some are just avoiding their obligation to pay,'' Davey said.
Also, the MBTA is considering increasing the fines for scofflaws, possibly up to $15, to resemble more costly municipal parking violations. It was not known yesterday whether the agency needs legislative approval to do that. MBTA lawyers are reviewing what is allowed under law.
Davey said his agency will continue to use the authority it does have by enforcing existing rates and, if necessary, towing.
"That was all in our power to do, and we didn't do it,'' he said.
A private developer is proposing to build a parking garage, retail and office project in downtown Newark. The project would include city-owned Parking Lot 1 off Delaware Avenue and near the Galleria on Main Street.
The proposal from Community Development Capital Partners would give the group three years to assemble land and secure financing for the project. Community is based in Rockland, Delaware. Also partnering in a limited liability company that would develop the project is Tevebaugh Associates, a Wilmington Architectural firm and Wohlsen Construction, a regional commercial builder.
The project would not involve the direct use of city funds. The city operate the parking garage on a leaseback basis with the developer operating mixed use space that could include office and retail.
An outline of the project will be presented to the Newark City Council at its meeting at 7 p.m. on Monday night.
In a letter to the council, City Planning Director Roy Lopata said the proposal offers an opportunity to deal with long-term parking needs for downtown Newark at no direct cost to the city.
Community Development Capital Partners is asking the city to sign a memorandum of understanding that would allow the project to go forward. The agreement would give the city the option of using eminent domain to assemble needed land. However, the city also has the option of not using the practice, which could be controversial, due to the fact that a portion of the project would house private businesses.
Under the memorandum of understanding, the city would get cash payments from the developer in the second and third years of the period where land and financing would be assembled.
City of Newark officials have been discussing the proposal with Community Development since last fall, according to materials released by the city outlining the project.
The city has long wanted to build a parking structure, but has held off any projects, due to a reluctance to take on additional debt.
As New Haven tackles a budget crisis, it's considering selling off garages and parking lots across town.
The DeStefano administration is reviewing the city's portfolio of six garages and 22 surface lots to see which, if any, to unload. The city is scrambling to close $8 million projected budget deficit for the current year-and a projected $57 million gap for the upcoming one. It is putting up for sale whatever property it feels it doesn't need (such as this old school).
"Everything's on the table right now," Mayor John DeStefano said in an interview. No decisions have been made yet about what if any facilities to sell, he said.
While budget woes have pressed the issue to the forefront, DeStefano said the portfolio review stems largely from policy concerns. The city's budget crisis has presented an opportunity to rethink ways government has operated for decades-such as whether it belongs in the parking business.
"The only reason we have these garages is a public policy of the '50s and '60s," he said. "They're a legacy that doesn't make sense."
The city decided to build garages to support private development back then. It might make more sense now for private owners to pay for their parking, DeStefano argued. Also, the city has vowed to promote alternatives to car travel.
As an example, DeStefano cited the Air Rights Garage (pictured). It basically serves Yale-New Haven Hospital. Why shouldn't the hospital own it and run it?
(Asked about the idea, hospital spokesman Vin Petrini responded, "We're not aware of the city's interest in selling off the garage, so we haven't given it any consideration." The city doesn't actually own most of the Air Rights Garage; it has an ownership interest in conjunction with the hospital.)
In recent years the DeStefano administration's development plans-such as for "Lot E," a spin-off set of apartments, offices and stores near the new cancer hospital-have included private construction and management of parking.
The city's mayorally-appointed parking authority still oversees 8,413 spaces at the 28 lots and garages, according to Executive Director William Kilpatrick. He said the authority doesn't maintain a record of the estimated appraised value of the land and structures. He declined comment on the question of whether it makes sense to sell them.
The garages don't lose money year to year, the mayor said. But that accounting doesn't include liability and upkeep, he said. Some of the facilities-such as the Crown Street Garage-have years worth of deferred maintenance, requiring millions of dollars of needed repairs.
DeStefano also argued that private operators "who specialize in parking are able to maximize revenues" better than government can, not just through rate setting, but by managing better. That's in part because some of the operators have broader experience, managing parking facilities nationwide.
The policy question-whether or not to keep owning garages and lots-matters because merely selling off city property to plug a budget hole is generally considered short-sighted. Bond rating agencies frown on the practice, for instance. It's considered a way to fix a problem in the short term while eliminating the ability to make money or strengthen a community in the long term.
"One-time revenues are never great ways to balance the budget. But if this is part of a long-term agenda where we move away from controlling these types of services, I think that's fine," State Rep. Roland Lemar said of the idea of unloading the parking facilities. "I don't see the need for municipalities to own parking garages. We should be encouraging folks to get on trains, get on buses, walk and bike." In some cases, such as a train station garage, it may make sense to maintain public control in order to serve a public purpose like keeping rates low enough to encourage rail commuting, he argued.
Selling the surface lots especially makes sense, Lemar said. He said he'd like to see private builders put tax-generating, neighborhood-knitting homes or stores or businesses there instead.
He mentioned the Pulaski lot across from Goodfellas restaurant on State Street as an example.
"That's an incredible development opportunity to really knit together State Street from downtown through to the CT Transit bus" building, Lemar said. "It serves as parking lot for some businesses. Its best use is as a mixed-use residential-commercial site, continuing foot traffic up and down the street and active bus runs."
DeStefano said the city has previously looked into selling that lot. "It's very narrow," he said. The city couldn't find a buyer.
Matthew Nemerson, who chairs the parking authority board, disagreed with the idea that the question is whether public or private management works better at parking facilities. It has more to do with how high to set rates and the nitty-gritty of whether sales make long-term financial sense on balance, he argued. Can the city make more money taking cash from a sale and reinvesting it, for instance, than it could holding onto the facilities and continuing to take in parking fees?
"If you look around the country, you'll see that parking authorities are looking at which garages to hold onto and how to develop the best revenue streams. So it's totally logical to look at that," Nemerson said.
"It is not a public-private issue. Our investigation around the country is that that's simply not the issue at all. The real issue is parking rates and who should be setting them. In a town where you have public control of rates, where it has to go through the city council, rates tend to be lower. The real issue ultimately is rates." Private operators set rates at the highest amounts they can receive in a specific spot. Cities like New Haven sometimes set standard rates for the whole system, whether or not certain facilities can command higher fees than others. Or they choose to keep rates lower than the market maximum for other reasons-like inducing people to come shop downtown.
Nemerson said the authority is about to begin $8 million in repairs at the Crown Street Garage.
"The conventional thinking is that the public sector doesn't have to make a profit [so it would] put more of its money" into structural repairs, he said. "These are concrete boxes which have cars in them which leak oil and salt and are part of the New England weather cycle. They look strong. But as we know, they're very fragile. As we saw with the Coliseum garage, maintenance and design are hugely important."
Fairfax County residents will have a harder time finding a free parking space in some neighborhoods if transportation planners get their way.
Working to ease traffic jams in the steadily urbanizing suburb, the county's Transportation Department is drafting proposed rules that would limit parking in new developments near Metro lines. Such parking limits have already been adopted by the Board of Supervisors as part of the plan governing Tysons Corner's transformation into an urban hub.
But imposing maximums in other parts of Fairfax where transit-oriented development exists would represent a significant departure in a suburb where generations of planners drew up plans around the automobile.
"This is a major shift. Other than Tysons, you could say this will be a first," said Dan Rathbone, chief of the transportation planning division in Fairfax.
Similar measures have been adopted in Montgomery County and other jurisdictions where population growth and new settlement patterns have transformed areas from suburbs into cities. Fairfax planners have paid particularly close attention to the transformation of neighboring Arlington County from a backwater of parking lots into a high-rise Metro corridor. Ballston's towers grew out of Parkington Shopping Center, whose name reflected one of its favorable attributes when it opened in 1951. Yet the number of jurisdictions in the United States that impose parking maximums on developers is still perhaps fewer than 50, Rathbone said.
"We often like to say that too much parking can be a traffic magnet," said Stewart Schwartz, executive director of the Coalition for Smarter Growth. "If we're going to address traffic and make a walkable community in Fairfax, it's important to get the parking right."
Still, some builders and county officials are wary. In a county that covers about 400 square miles, they wonder whether people would buy homes without having a place to park.
"I think everybody recognizes there's a need for new parking ratios and parking limits, but the challenge is to figure out what are the right numbers," said Jon Lindgren, director of operations for the Northern Virginia Building Industry Association. "It's mostly just making sure that builders have the flexibility to develop and build the kind of units that people want."
Supervisor John C. Cook (R-Braddock) said he endorses the general concept of encouraging people who reside near Metro to use mass transit more and their cars less, but he also expressed unease about the measure's potential intrusiveness and lack of flexibility.
"You're really talking about not allowing developers to build parking spaces? How can you limit the number of cars somebody owns?" Cook said.
He and other skeptics wonder what would happen to people who purchased a townhouse with limited parking but then switched jobs or encountered some other circumstance affecting their ability to commute to work by Metro.
"They can't take the Metro if it goes the wrong way," Cook said.
Studies have shown that something as banal as a parking space has profound effects on whether a community is livable, affordable, navigable and environmentally sound. A study by the Transportation and Land Use Coalition of Silicon Valley housing patterns found that a single parking space could cost as much as $25,000 and represent as much as 20 percent of the total cost of building an apartment building. In effect, the study found, parking spaces drove out people, particularly the elderly, renters and low-income residents and others without vehicles.
Donald Shoup, a professor of urban planning at the University of California at Los Angeles who grew up in Alexandria, said free parking is anything but free. Shoup, who wrote the book "The High Cost of Free Parking," said the true costs of free parking are rolled into the cost of a house or office building. If anything, Shoup said, Fairfax has promoted cars for too long.
"If you look at it from the air, it looks like a parking lot," Shoup said.
Schwartz said surveys also suggest that limiting parking and increasing mass transit play an important role in attracting younger people, who are less likely to define success as the single-family suburban home with a two-car garage. An analysis by real estate consulting firm Robert Charles Lesser & Co. found that, compared with the rest of the Washington metropolitan area, Fairfax attracted a smaller percentage of the fastest-growing segment of householders - those with one or two people per dwelling - in the past decade. Many of them prefer walkable communities, Schwartz said.
"The millennials, in particular, are sort of the Zipcar generation," Schwartz said.
Kathy Ichter, director of Fairfax's Transportation Department, unveiled the draft proposal at a transportation committee meeting late last year.
Under current ordinances, new townhouses must have at least 2.75 parking spaces per dwelling. Under the draft recommendations, parking would be limited to 1.75 spaces per dwelling in a townhouse development less than a quarter-mile from a Metro station or 2.5 spaces per dwelling if the townhouse were located one-fourth of a mile to a half-mile from the station. Parking at commercial developments would be reduced from 2.6 parking spaces per 125,000 square feet of space to 2.1 if less than a quarter-mile from the Metro and to two spaces less than a half-mile away.
The Board of Supervisors would be required to adopt the guidelines as an ordinance for them to take effect. The county's Transportation Advisory Commission has endorsed the proposal, but only near the Metro lines.
Jeffrey Parnes, former president of the Fairfax County Federation of Citizens Associations, said the proposed policy is trying to catch up to the market, as many people who buy near Metro hubs chose those homes because they wanted to use mass transit. Parnes, who heads the advisory commission, said the proposed change is a modest first step, because cars will still be an important part of Fairfax's livability for many years.
"There's no doubt about it: You will need a car," Parnes said. "You won't need three cars."
Burlington firefighters extinguished an intentionally set blaze early Friday morning in a city parking garage, and police have arrested a suspect, according to a statement from the Fire Marshal's Office.
The fire was reported at 3:07 a.m. at the Marketplace Parking Garage in downtown, where a storage area for archived garage receipts was found to be ablaze. Firefighters extinguished the blaze and cleared the scene in less than an hour, officials said.
Later Friday, police apprehended Alden Finnie, 44, of Burlington and cited him on suspicion of second-degree arson, police Sgt. Bruce Bovat said. Finnie previously worked as a ticket booth attendant in a city garage, Bovat said. The sergeant said authorities are continuing to investigate what might have prompted the fire.
Finnie is due to appear Tuesday in Vermont Superior Court in Burlington, Bovat said.
Sound Transit plans to beef up parking enforcement soon at train stations and commuter lots, including the Issaquah Transit Center.
The move comes after concerns from ST Express bus riders and Sounder commuter rail commuters about overcrowded parking lots, vehicles left overnight in lots and other infractions.
The enforcement emphasis starts Jan. 15. Sound Transit plans to seek out vehicles parked in transit center lots for more than 24 hours, parked in handicap spaces illegally, parked in more than a single space, and parked to block other vehicles and pedestrian pathways.
Sound Transit provides a weeklong grace period for transit lot users from Jan. 15 to Jan. 22. Owners will receive warning notices for breaking the guidelines during the grace period. Vehicles found to be in violation of the rules could be immediately towed after Jan. 23.
Sound Transit has installed additional signage at the busiest transit centers to advise lot users of parking regulations, and plans to install signs at other agency-operated lots. Sound Transit also offers a primer for riders.
The agency offers parking at 21 transit centers in King, Pierce and Snohomish counties. From the 21 centers, six sites reached at 99 percent capacity or greater, and seven sites reached at least 90 percent of capacity.
It's about to get more expensive to park at meters in Boston. City parking officials say starting this weekend some meters will be adjusted so that it costs $1.25 to park for an hour, rather than the current $1 per hour rate. That means a quarter will get you only 12 minutes, instead of 15 minutes.
Transportation Commissioner Thomas Timlin says it will take until the end of the month to make the change at all the city's meters.
He says it's the first meter rate hike since the mid-1980s. More meters will start accepting credit cards for payment, as well. The rate hike is expected to bring in about $3 million annually for the city.
By this time next year, Chico State officials hope to begin construction on a new campus parking structure, but for some the addition is unwelcome in downtown Chico.
The construction of a new parking structure has been a goal of the university since at least 2005, when the master plan for campus facilities was approved by the California State University board of trustees.
Momentum for the parking structure, which will be located on Second Street between Normal and Chestnut streets, has picked up in the past few months.
By the end of January, the college expects to release environmental documents related to the potential impacts of the proposed structure.
The release of the report will likely bring the structure one step closer to completion. Speaking to the Chico Economic Planning Corporation Thursday morning, Lori Hoffman, Chico State vice president of business and finance, called the parking structure the "highest priority" project for the college this next year.
Hoffman said with plans to renovate First Street's Taylor Hall with a new performing arts center, additional parking in downtown Chico will be necessary.
"If we are bringing people to that side of campus, we really need to provide more parking," Hoffman said.
She said the structure will span 3 1/2 stories and will have a minimum of 325 parking spaces.
The structure will primarily be utilized by campus staff and students, Hoffman said, but added that the public will be able to purchase parking in the structure as well, just as they do in the parking lot at Nettleton Stadium or the campus' current parking structure at Second and Warner streets.
On the weekends and during evenings, Hoffman said parking will be more readily available for downtown Chico visitors not associated with the college.
Hoffman added that Chico State has the lowest number of parking spaces per capita, compared to the other CSU campuses. But Mark Stemen, a Chico State professor and sustainability advocate, thinks that is a distinction that should be commended and maintained.
Stemen opposes the construction of the parking structure and has circulated an open letter throughout the community arguing against the construction of the structure.
In a Thursday phone interview, Stemen said the parking structure does little to promote alternative transportation and fails to take into consideration the larger picture of what he called a transportation problem, rather than a parking problem. "This is a 20th century solution to a 21st century problem," Stemen said. "A three-story rock is not a solution."
Stemen said the college should dedicate more effort to implementing the recommendations proposed in the campus 2008 Transportation Demand Management Plan before building a parking structure.
The 15 goals in the 2008 plan include the improvement of several bike paths in and around the campus, increased and improved bicycle parking and a geographical restriction on parking permits issued to students.
Stemen said the parking structure should not come to light until all 15 measures are implemented.
He said he is looking for a "total solution" to Chico's transportation issues.
"We do not want to force people out of their cars. We want to enable the people who want to get out of their cars to do so," Stemen said. Hoffman said the college plans to implement the demand management plan strategies in the near future, claiming the college has already worked to implement six of the 15 measures.
But even with all of the recommendations in place, Hoffman said parking will still be needed in the campus area. Hoffman said there are an estimated 18,000 students, faculty and staff associated with the college.
Chico State currently has 1,876 parking spaces available to accommodate those potential drivers.
Although it may not be the only solution, based on the numbers, Hoffman said it is clear that there is a parking space deficit that will be met in part by a parking structure.
"We have every indication that we need more parking," Hoffman said.
The days of hand-written parking citations are coming to an end in Wheeling.
Wheeling City Council on Tuesday approved a contract with Tyler Technologies to purchase a parking court system for $46,508 from the Finance Department budget. Finance Director Michael Klug said the contract is in the mail and within the next week or two, parking meter enforcement officers will have three devices to replace their notepads.
The items designed for the two city meter readers and one fine collector will be Motorola Symbol MC75 devices that appear much like Blackberry cell phones. Klug said they will be connected to a belt-clipped printer that will create a ticket similar in shape to a grocery receipt.
At the end of each day, Klug said the officers will bring the devices back to the City-County Building and place them on a dock. Data will be automatically extracted and logged into the provided software. When a ticket goes unpaid beyond its due date, the software will notify city officials so proper action can be taken to collect the fines.
Though Klug could not say for sure yet whether the devices will increase city revenue significantly, he said fine management will become less cumbersome and that officers will perform more efficiently.
Patty Miller, meter officer, agrees with the new system's purpose.
"It's going to be easier, quicker, more efficient, a lot more advantages," she said, noting that in the winter months, her ink freezes up and causes difficulty in writing tickets.
Previously, the Wheeling Police Department obtained a license plate reader that attaches to the rear side of a cruiser. It captures plate images and automatically runs checks on all vehicles passing in front of the view finder. An included ability in those checks is finding drivers with outstanding parking tickets.
Police Chief Robert Matheny said information from the parking court system can be entered into the plate reader's database by hand, but he did not know if the software for the two systems will be able to interact automatically. He said he will explore the idea to see if synchronization is possible.
Matheny said the plate reader arrived Tuesday and will become operational in coming weeks. A Homeland Security grant for $21,375 was accepted by Wheeling City Council in November to obtain the reader.