- Meetings & Events
- Membership Services
- Professional Development
- Parking Matters
- Knowledge Center
- Shop IPI
Members of Pittsburgh City Council this morning said the mayor's plan to lease parking facilities to a private operator is dead and a bill to allow it should be withdrawn by the administration.
Councilman Patrick Dowd said the lease plan has little support among council members and will never have enough council support to become law.
"This proposal is dead. We need to get his dead alternative off the table," Mr. Dowd said of the mayor's plan.
Councilwoman Natalia Rudiak agreed.
"The plan is dead. I'm not voting for it. Most of my colleagues are not voting for it. It's time to get it off the table," she said.
Their comments came after they joined Council President Darlene Harris in introducing legislation today to sell all of the city's parking assets -- one parking garage, five street lots and about 7,000 meters -- to the parking authority for $220 million in a move to generate revenue for the city pension fund without leasing garages and meters to the public sector.
The legislation puts onto council's table a plan that city Controller Michael Lamb proposed about a week ago and repudiates Mayor Luke Ravenstahl's proposal to lease city parking assets and parking authority facilities to a group of private investors for 50 years.
Mr. Lamb proposed selling the city's share of parking assets to the parking authority and using the $220 million in proceeds to boost the pension fund, averting a state takeover of the fund at year's end. Mr. Lamb said the parking authority could float a bond issue, backed by parking rate increases, to pay off the debt.
The legislation would give the city the option to buy back the assets for $1 at some point.
In a separate bill, the council members outlined a series of meter rate increases that would enable the authority to meet new debt obligations.
Hourly meter rates currently range from 50 cents to $2. Under legislation introduced today, the rates would range from 50 cents to $3 by March 31; from 75 cents to $3 by January; and from $1 to $3 by 2012. There would be no additional increases through at least 2015. The legislation does not speak to parking rates at the city-owned Mellon Square garage.
Mr. Ravenstahl's lease plan calls for higher meter costs -- hourly rates would range from 50 cents to $4.50 -- by 2015. He also would increase parking rates at city and authority-owned garages by as much as $10.25 a day through 2015, with later increases tied to inflation.
While the council-Lamb plan would have overall lower increases through 2015, the mayor's plan would have lower rates in certain neighborhoods at certain times. For example, in 2011, part of Oakland would have lower meter rates under the mayor's plan than the council-Lamb plan.
The mayor proposed the rate increases to make the deal as attractive as possible to potential bidders. But the proposed increases have been a lightning rod for criticism, with some council members, residents and businesses saying the proposed rates would damage neighborhood business districts and drive more shoppers to the suburbs.
Mr. Ravenstahl sent council legislation for a 50-year lease with an investment group led by J.P. Morgan Asset Management and Connecticut-based LAZ Parking.
The group offered nearly $452 million for the lease. Under the deal, the consortium would lease about a dozen parking authority garages, plus about 30 authority-owned lots, the city-owned Mellon Square garage, five city-owned lots and about 7,000 on-street meters.
Mr. Ravenstahl would use at least $220 million in lease proceeds to boost the pension fund, averting a state takeover that he said would require dramatically higher annual pension payments that the city could make only through a combination of tax increases and service cuts.
The mayor set a Nov. 1 deadline for approval of the lease plan, and representatives of the investment group were in town last week to introduce themselves and tout service enhancements that they hoped would blunt criticism about rate increases.
However, with the year-end deadline for boosting the pension fund quickly approaching, council members are scrambling for alternatives that would keep the parking assets in public hands. Today's legislation says continued public management of the system is in the best interests of customer service and the city's economic development needs.
Mr. Lamb said he worked on the bills with the three council members. He said the legislation represents a merger of his plan and Mrs. Harris' earlier proposal that the city float a pension bond, backed by parking rate increases, to boost the pension fund.
Under the legislation, which is being informally called the council-Lamb plan, the parking authority would continue to operate its own parking assets, plus buy the city's and operate them under certain conditions imposed by council. For example, the authority would have to abide by meter enforcement hours set by council and seek council's authority of any future plan to lease parking garages and meters to the private sector.
Mr. Lamb said the parking authority board would have to approve the purchase. He said Ms. Rudiak, an authority board member, will lead efforts on the authority's end.
Mayoral spokeswoman Joanna Doven said the administration will study the viability of the council-Lamb plan but added: "We still believe the mayor's plan is the best plan for the residents of Pittsburgh ??? we're going to continue to communicate that to council."
The council-Lamb plan isn't the only alternative officials see to the mayor's plan.
Councilman Bill Peduto said he doesn't believe that a state takeover would have financial consequences as dire as the mayor has portrayed. In fact, he said a takeover actually could benefit the city in certain ways; the state, for example, would craft a 30-year plan to ensure the fund's long-term health.
Councilman Ricky Burgess supports a hybrid approach.
He wants to lease city and parking authority assets, generating enough revenue to boost the pension fund and avert a takeover. Having stabilized the fund, he then would turn it over to the state for long-term management.
If you live outside the Plateau Mont Royal borough but use all-day street parking there for your private vehicle, expect to get zapped one way or another, borough mayor Luc Ferrandez said yesterday.
The borough "will not favour people who have other choices" as it moves to boost revenue from parking while revising its rules, he added.
The Plateau is to unveil "very early in November" exactly how it will implement a fresh central-city decision handing it complete control over parking-meter rates and parking spots across the borough's turf, including major arteries, Ferrandez said.
Parking-meter hours could be extended and vary according to time of day, he said. "It's a world of possibilities."
He refused to forecast the volume of extra cash expected, but said it "will go 100 per cent to the borough."
Local business owners will be among those consulted, he said, noting that any suggestion of changes to street parking triggers "hundreds of calls" to the borough.
"People coming from outside are not always our enemies," Ferrandez said.
"People who are coming to make their purchases on Mount Royal (Ave.) or St. Denis (St.) or St. Laurent (Blvd.) are welcome."
The decision to decentralize control over parking applies equally to Montreal's eight other original boroughs, putting them on an equal footing with the 10 former suburbs.
While Montreal's executive committee is studying such a handover, it hasn't made a final decision, city spokesperson Darren Becker said.
But Richard Bergeron, Projet Montreal's leader and a member of the committee, said the parking decentralization is a done deal.
People who drive in from outside the Plateau borough and park all day -especially near metro stations, to the detriment of local residents -will be particular targets, Bergeron suggested.
Becker insisted "the executive committee has not made a decision" and that Robert Lamontagne, "the director of finance, erred in saying it was a decision."
Ferrandez added street parking used by daily commuters near large hospitals or CEGEPs to the borough's list of targets, saying parking for residents will take priority.
The deal commits the Plateau to continue funnelling $5 million a year of street-parking revenue to the central city. Cash generated beyond that would be used, for instance, for improvements to local parks, Bergeron said.
The plan was outlined in a Sept. 30 letter to the nine boroughs from city hall.
The boroughs would also pocket the money from fines levied when vehicles are towed from the streets during snow clearing -about $245,000 a winter for the Plateau, Ferrandez said.
Deputy Mayor Stephen Chase wants the city to build a less expensive parking garage for Peel Plaza than the one that's proposed for Carleton Street.
Chase writes in a motion to common council the proposed garage is estimated to cost upwards of $18 million, something he says would drain the coffers of the Saint John Parking Commission, which would own and operate the structure.
The cost would be partially offset by a $6.6-million investment from the province, which would reserve about 200 spaces for legal staff and visitors at the nearby courthouse. Still, the city would have to subsidize the garage with about $300,000 a year, with the payments declining over time.
Chase says a different location would be cheaper for the city and for the commission, which he adds would have more money to invest in other parking projects in other areas of the municipality.
In his motion, expected to be presented to council tonight, the deputy mayor is asking his fellow politicians to issue a call for proposals on a new site, asking the private sector to find a better and less expensive location.
"Parking is required to complete the Peel Plaza development," he writes in the letter, referring to the city centre district that's the site of a new police station and courthouse, both of which are under construction north of Union Street.
"However, the current parking proposal which remains to go out to tender poses several difficulties, all resulting in extraordinary cost that should not otherwise be necessary for a parking facility, or at least a parking facility that presents the best business case in the given circumstances."
Chase contends the proposed site, which touches Carleton and Sewell streets, is full of rock that would be expensive to remove. As well, he says the proposed garage would need more ventilation than other garages that are open on all four sides.
A parking study conducted several years ago found a new facility at Harbour Station would cost an estimated $21,500 per stall.
This means a garage with 450 spaces - about the same number as what's proposed for Carleton - would cost about $9.6 million, according to figures from the 2005 study.
That's "substantially less expensive" than the project that's proposed in Peel Plaza, which is expected to cost from $16 million to $18 million, Chase writes.
The deputy mayor, who voted against the controversial $20.6-million police station, says there is a need for parking in the Peel Plaza area, but he's not satisfied with the proposed project.
City officials had planned to issue public tenders for the project some time this month.
Chase suggests the city could issue a call for proposals to identify other sites at the same time, to find the cheapest project.
"Council will then have the benefit of comparing all alternatives for the parking facility."
UTA's transformation took another step forward Monday as the official College Park District groundbreaking took place on the east side of campus.
Many representatives from UTA, the City of Arlington and First Baptist Church were on hand for the event, which signified what was called a "strategic partnership" between the three entities.
"Some cities and universities don't get along, but we're setting a new model," UTA President James Spaniolo said.
The $80 million development, subsidized by $18 million from the City of Arlington, is expected to be completed by the summer 2012.
Construction on College Park District, including the 6,500-seat College Park Center, is already under way, but Monday's ceremony marked the start of the project's mixed-use development.
The newest construction zone lies directly north of College Park Center and will be home to a residence hall, apartments for 600 students, restaurants, shops and a welcome center.
"The whole area of North Texas will be able to benefit from College Park," Spaniolo said.
The district also will include an 1,800-car parking garage, made possible by First Baptist Church and its donation of 1.5 acres of land to the project.
"If Arlington is going to survive and thrive, particularly in the midst of a challenging economy, we've got to develop some strategic partnerships and common interests," said FBC Senior Pastor Dennis Wiles. "To me, that's been the strength of this project. You've got faith communities, you've got businesses, you've got the city government, you've got the major university, and we've all come together around a common interest."
Because of the church's involvement, its members will gain use of the parking garage on Sundays and for other events. Spaniolo said many people will benefit from the additional parking.
"For anybody who has ever looked for a place to park in Arlington, come to College Park," Spaniolo said.
After NBC 5 anchor Kristi Nelson opened the ceremony, Student Congress President Aaron Resendez spoke on behalf of UTA's student body. He said the new projects provide UTA with a new synergy.
"It's an exciting time," he said. "We are well on our way to creating a true college town out of Arlington."
Resendez said student surveys are utilized to help fill the retail space in College Park District. The top request has been for a grocery store, followed by convenience stores, a full-service restaurant and fast food.
"Basically [students want] things that are convenient and easy for them," Resendez said. "A lot of students are excited."
Another component of College Park District is The Green, a multi-purpose area of green space currently under construction south of College Park Center.
The recreational space is targeted for completion by the end of this year.
Leaders are predicting the new additions will help the area become a hub of activity in Arlington.
"For a long time we have wanted to blur the lines between the City of Arlington and UTA," Arlington Mayor Robert Cluck said. "I believe UTA is the most important asset to the City of Arlington."
Summit's council is considering implementing a fee system for the city's free shopper parking lots in the downtown business district.
Currently, the city allows for up to two hours of free parking in three lots on DeForest Avenue, a lot on Bank Street and the ground floor of the Springfield Avenue parking garage. But after two hours expire, drivers are expected to move their cars or risk receiving a $25 parking ticket.
The new system, however, would allow drivers to park for more than two hours at those spaces, if they're willing to pay for it: the city would charge $2 for each additional hour and $20 for more than seven hours.
The plan would cost the city roughly $700,000, as the parking lots would need additional handicap spaces, curbing improvements, wider parking spaces and either automated payment machines or a gate system to enforce the new law, according to Rita McNany, the city's parking services director.
McNany was unable to say how many citations were issued last year for drivers who exceeded the time limit in the free spaces, but said that, on average, the city issues roughly 15 to 20 tickets for those spaces each day.
The council hopes the planned fees would encourage commuters and local employees to park at other, cheaper long-term lots rather than take up space intended for shoppers, said Nanette Kryston, the chairwoman of Summit Downtown Inc., a local business advocacy group.
"Summit will no longer be considered the town that gives all the parking tickets. We'll now be considered a shopper-friendly town," she said, adding that the option of parking for more than two hours could keep consumers in town longer.
"Having only two hours to park there is not right, because you don't have the time come into town, have lunch and go shopping," Kryston said.
McNany said that the plan's price tag could be paid off in three years with the revenues from the lots. After that, the parking fees could support city maintenance needs or could be used toward financing a future parking garage, she said.
But the plan's detractors worry that the proposed system will not be adequately enforced, leaving Summit to foot the bill when revenues are not realized.
Councilman Tom Getzendanner said he's not convinced that the proposed ordinance guarantees the city's ability to collect the money.
And if technology doesn't provide an air-tight way to collect money, Getzendanner said, the project's costs will exceed expectations and could require hiring more meter maids to enforce the law.
"I'm a realist," said Getzendanner, who would prefer to see a private contractor administer the city's parking system rather than have the city manage it. "I know how difficult it is to pull it off."
About $30 million could alleviate the most common complaints people have about St. Paul's popular Como Park -- parking and traffic congestion.
So says a draft plan recently released by the city's Parks and Recreation Department. The purpose of the plan is to figure out how to improve getting to and through the park, while also being sensitive to nature and the neighborhood.
"What we do in one spot is going to affect things throughout the entire park," said Michelle Furrer, director/campus manager at Como.
A mix of new signs, parking fees, increased use of a shuttle system and roundabouts are some of the things that could make traffic flow more smoothly and ease frazzled nerves, according to the plan. The suggestions are prioritized to be rolled out over the next 20 years, but small changes could be made as early as spring.
Whether it's to stroll around the lake, peer at a polar bear or smell the flowers, more people are finding their way to Como Park than ever: More than 3 million people visited there in 2009. The busiest times are during the summer.
The 450-acre park was established in 1873 and has several attractions, including a free city-owned zoo, conservatory, children's amusement park, golf course and lake. Over the past decade, millions of dollars have been put into upgrading animal exhibits and buildings. Construction on a new pool is about to begin.
Considered a regional park, Como is nestled in a residential neighborhood in the northwest part of the city. That fact can cause tensions between neighbors and visitors. Nearly 80 percent of visitors come from outside the city, and 92 percent of all visitors drive to the park, according to the study.
City officials want to get the percentage of drivers down to about 80 percent.
Parking, congestion and green space are among top concerns of folks who use the park, according to the study.
Among the suggested changes:
•A permanent parking lot for shuttle use: The contract to use a State Fairgrounds lot is running out, and the study suggests a permanent lot, ideally on park grounds, would get more people on the shuttles. In addition, the study suggests having a shuttle circulate among various attractions, so someone at the pool could hop a shuttle to the zoo, for instance. The shuttle, funded by a $1.2 million federal grant, started running on summer weekends in 2009. It began running on weekdays this past summer. Currently, only about 4 percent of visitors use it.
•A new underground parking ramp: A plan in 1984 called for an underground ramp near the visitor's center, and the new study suggests the same thing. It would have about 400 spaces at an estimated cost of $20 million for construction.
•A better sign system: This is an area for major improvement that could be done relatively quickly, Furrer said. She said often people wind up driving through the same lot over and over because they don't know where to find other places to park. One type of sign that would be considered would tell people when a lot is full. Naming the various lots also is suggested.
•Charging for parking on a seasonal basis: This would act as an incentive to get people to use the shuttle, according to the study.
•Using roundabouts at key intersections: Roundabouts would eliminate left turns that back up traffic and slow traffic speeds, the study said.
•New and improved bike and trail connections: Making it easier for people to bike or walk to the park would lessen dependence on vehicles, the study said.
People are being asked to give feedback on the draft plan before it goes to the City Council for approval in mid-November. The study cost $100,000 and was done by Kimley-Horn and Associates.
The draft report is at: tinyurl.com/comoparktip.
The Pittsburgh Parking Authority would change drastically if a private operator assumes control of 12 Downtown garages and 9,000 metered spaces, its director said Friday.
Most notably, said Executive Director David Onorato, the agency's annual budget could be slashed from $25 million to $5 million.
"The authority is going to exist, but it will be on a smaller scale and with different duties," Onorato said.
Pittsburgh Parking Partners, which bid $451.7 million to lease the parking facilities for 50 years, would handle customer service complaints, fix broken parking meters and collect money from those meters -- all duties for which the authority is responsible.
City Council will hold a fourth public hearing on the proposed lease at 6 p.m. Monday in its fifth-floor chambers of the City-County Building, Downtown. Two final hearings are set for Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. at Martin Luther King Jr. elementary school in the North Side, and 7:30 p.m. at Winchester Thurston School in Shadyside. Council could vote on the proposal by Oct. 29.
The authority would continue to issue tickets and oversee Pittsburgh Parking Court. It would hold Pittsburgh Parking Partners, a venture of investment firm J.P. Morgan and Connecticut-based LAZ Parking, accountable to its contract with the city.
Onorato initially would retain about 75 of his 130 employees. The others, represented by the Teamsters union, would work for Pittsburgh Parking Partners. No one would lose their job, he said. The authority eventually would hire people to enforce more stringent parking regulations under privatization.
"I'm in the process of determining that now, figuring out what personnel would be needed to carry out those duties," Onorato said.
The authority employs 24 full-time and 20 part-time parking enforcement officers.
Onorato said he is calculating what his annual operating budget would total if council approves the contract. He said $5 million to $7 million is "a ballpark number."
Councilman Patrick Dowd, who believes in the Parking Authority's ability to drive economic development, said it's important to keep the agency in existence.
"All of the biggest projects in the last 20 years have some entity of public parking, and we've got to have not just a parking authority on life support, but a real functioning authority," Dowd said.
Mayor Luke Ravenstahl proposed the lease to get money to prop up the city's pension funds. The funds have 27 percent of their $1 billion in obligations and must be 50 percent funded by year's end to avoid a state takeover.
Cars pulling into the downtown parking garage might soon be greeted by advertisements for restaurants or law offices.
The Bozeman City Commission is considering selling commercial advertising space at Bridger Park Downtown and on other municipal properties such as baseball fields and bus shelters.
Mayor Jeff Krauss said it's a way for the city to "get creative about how to pay for the services that the public wants."
And at least one commissioner agrees.
"I think it's definitely worth trying," Commissioner Chris Mehl said.
Over the years, city officials have gone back and forth about whether to allow private ads on municipal property.
City ordinance currently allows advertising on city vehicles, equipment, solid waste containers and other property. But the ordinance is rarely used.
Some ads have been placed at parks for various events there like the Sweet Pea Festival or the Bogert Farmer's Market, according to a city memo to commissioners.
In late 2005, the commission voted to sell advertising space on city garbage trucks to help pay for the city's recycling program. But then, two months after that approval, a new commission overturned that decision.
The city's ordinance states that the city manager must approve all ads before they go up.
And, ads for political candidates, alcohol, tobacco, contraception, services with "sexual overtones," or "hygiene products of an intimate, personal nature," are forbidden.
Ads are also exempt from the city's sign code, according to the ordinance.
City Parking Commission members are proposing that the city contract with a private company to sell, install and maintain advertising at the garage, located on Mendenhall Street between North Black and Tracy avenues.
Ads would be placed on the interior walls as well as in the stairwells and elevators.
The parking commission estimates the city could initially make $4,000 a year off the ad space.
"Hopefully it will grow from there," said parking manager Paul Burns.
The parking garage, which opened a year and a half ago, is making money.
The garage made $40,499 in the past year, with $109,694 in revenues and $69,195 in expenses, according to Burns.
However, the city recently extended the amount of time drivers can park in the garage for free in an effort to make it more competitive with other downtown parking options.
The city of Kent now owns the unfinished parking garage downtown at Fourth Avenue North and West Smith Street. City officials hope that means they might be able to finally find a developer to take over the stalled project.
"We now own the property free and clear, with marketable title to the site," said Kurt Hanson, Kent's economic development manager, in a city media release. The city secured the property through foreclosure on Oct. 1.
Originally slated to be a 355-stall parking garage with condominiums and retail space, work stopped on the project in May 2007 when the developer's lender withheld funds.
Since Plan B Development, the original developer, walked off the project, the property has been entangled in legal battles.
"We'd been trying to entice a new developer, but with the recession complicating matters with bank failures, mergers and takeovers, interest has been fairly cool," Hanson said. "A clear title on the property will help make way for a new developer to come forward."
Kent Mayor Suzette Cooke looks ahead to seeing a mixed-use development at the site.
"The property is the 50-yard line between Kent Station and the downtown Historic District," Cooke said. "With its proximity to Town Square Plaza, the city's acquisition will allow it to retain our original vision for the area - to be a major centerpiece that revitalizes downtown with vibrant activity that benefits the community overall."
Council President Jamie Perry said she's pleased the city has a clear title to the property.
"We've waited a long time for resolution on this key property in our downtown," Perry said. "We're excited to pursue opportunities to work with a developer who will ensure we build upon the success of Kent Station, ShoWare Center and Town Square Plaza. It's the standard set by those facilities we hope to achieve with a new project."
Millburn officials are getting a request for proposals for design documents for a parking deck at the Millburn Train Station.
Township Committee member Robert Tillotson, who is helping oversee the study into commuter parking and solutions, said the RFP would help determine the cost for drawings and the construction of a deck on Lot 2, which is at the corner of Lackwanna Place and Essex Street.
Officials are seeking to add around 200 parking spaces at the Millburn Train Station as a way to compensate for the average 150 cars that use the valet service at the train station and plan for the future.
Tillotson, who is working with fellow committee member James Suell, said they plan to send the RFP out in November. He said at this point no tax dollars have been spent, nor would they in the future since the project would be paid through the parking utility.
The Township Committee had a presentation at a meeting in June about constructing the deck on Lot 2, which was the preferred choice made through comments made after a public meeting last spring. At the June meeting, officials said the deck with 175 spaces could cost $5 million, which would push commuter permits up by $109. A larger garage would push permits up by $147.
The Township Committee is planning to continue valet service in Lots 7 and 9 at the Millburn Train Station and authorized advertising for bids during its meeting Tuesday night. Officials have said they pay over $220,000 per year on valet parking at the train station.
But Peter Humphreys, a candidate for Township Committee, questioned the need for valet parking in both lots, especially if parking is added at the Short Hills Train Station. He questioned if parking would be added at the Short Hills Train Station, which he and others have suggested in the past. He also questioned if the contract could be bid separately in order to save some money.
Tillotson nodded his head yes about the need for the valet parking in both lots.
Township Administrator Tim Gordon said the contract is bid together, but the township has the right to reduce the valet parking at any time. Officials have to give 30-60 days notice, he said.
Tillotson also said they are planning to move forward with adding parking spaces at the Short Hills Train Station. Township Engineer Tom Watkinson and Police Sgt. David Bonney are working together to measure and determine how they can establish the added parking, he said.
Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport is looking to buy land to build a parking deck for its new international terminal. A piece of the former Ford auto plant in Hapeville is a top contender.
Jacoby Development bought the 122-acre site in 2008 for $40.3 million. The site is virtually across the street from the under-construction international terminal. To be clear, the airport is only considering buying a small portion of the former Ford site.
"We are exploring a variety of options to accommodate additional parking for the new international terminal, which will be completed in the spring of 2012," said Duriya Farooqui, deputy chief operating officer for Atlanta, which owns and manages the airport. Parking is a top source of revenue for the airport, and an important amenity for travelers.
Atlanta is evaluating the Jacoby site, she said, though any deal would need Atlanta City Council approval.
Scott Condra, senior vice president of development for Jacoby, said he has talked to several groups about either purchasing the entire Ford site or the area where 4,000 airport parking spaces already were proposed, "but we are not in any serious negotiations right now to sell the whole site."
Condra explained that Jacoby and several partners paid cash for the former Ford plant, then spent millions of dollars cleaning up the land. So far, those investors, including Bell Partners and D.H. Griffin, both of Greensboro, N.C., and Rutherford Seydel and the Turner Family, are patient with the project. Jacoby hasn't sought additional financing because no tenants have signed leases, Condra said.
Condra said his firm likely will act as the master developer, similar to how Jacoby developed Atlantic Station. Under this strategy, Jacoby could sell some parcels of land to other companies for development while maintaining control over the project.
Jacoby won Ford and local officials over with a long-term, $1 billion project that calls for office space, retail space, a telecommunications data center and three hotels, all of which would create up to 10,000 jobs. Condra said all of that is still on the table.
Hapeville Mayor Alan Hallman was relieved to hear that Jacoby wasn't selling the entire site to the airport. He has been depending on the Jacoby project to bring jobs back to his small town of 6,500.
"Protecting the sovereignty of my city has been my number one goal," Hallman said.
An East End resident's dreams of walking less than a block to his house and restaurant are thwarted daily by those in search of free parking.
Lapses in enforcement leave Miguel Lopez circling in search of parking equality for those living near the hospital and looking to spend money downtown.
Before Hurricane Ike blasted Galveston on Sept. 13, 2008, parking meters greeted customers frequenting Lopez's family owned business, Apache Mexican Cuisine, 511 20th St., which turns 50 next month.
The city recently had new meters installed downtown, but left off the paid parking list was 20th Street, which is a block from other restaurants, nightclubs and entertainment venues.
"I know it's my responsibility to have parking for my business, but it's just not equal," Lopez said.
Earlier this week, shortly before the lunch rush, Lopez had no customers, but automobiles lined the road in front of the business. Drivers circled, looking for free parking.
Lopez took his complaint to City Manager Steve LeBlanc.
'It's Affecting All The Businesses'
"Cars don't move for days," Lopez said. "It's affecting all the businesses. From what I see, talking to LeBlanc in a meeting, the city's more concerned with Ampco not making enough money than actual businesses.
"I know the economy is not good, but this is not helping at all. People come around, see all the cars and figure we must be packed."
The restaurant still is trying to recoup losses from rebuilding after the hurricane, which sent 7 feet of saltwater storm surge inside.
The city could install meters, at a cost of $10,271 each, elsewhere and is monitoring parking along the fringe areas, such as the old court house and hospital, city spokeswoman Alicia Cahill said.
"If the volume warrants, we will add additional meters," Cahill said. "The capacity has to cover the full cost of the meter."
Unlike the first round of meters, where the city supplied 10 percent of the cost, the city is responsible for purchasing additional meters, Cahill said.
"Time studies are a part of Ampco's contract," Cahill said. She said company representatives would come back to the city with a recommendation.
Although the city still is waiting on Wi-Fi to make the meters fully functional, Ampco meter ambassadors are educating drivers about the meters.
"They can and will issue citations, but only as a last resort," Cahill said. "The city recognizes that the meters are new, and we are allowing the public a transition period, but it's no guarantee that you won't get a ticket if you fail to pay."
Meanwhile, Lopez's parking woes continue when he heads home. He lives near the University of Texas Medical Branch, Galveston County's largest employer, which also draws traffic from hospital patients and visitors.
Parking in the nearby East End residential district is restricted. Signs warn of two-hour time limits, but residents with permits are exempted.
"No one's making tickets unless you're in a red zone or covering driveways," Lopez said. "We pay our taxes. We have residential permits, but they're not enforcing that."
Ticketing Staff Reduced
Recent staff reductions at the police department, the result of budget cuts, left no one to ticket parking violators except peace officers, whose primary duty is to thwart crime.
Police Lt. Jorge Trevino encouraged residents with parking complaints to call the department, and officers, when not monitoring school zones or answering emergency calls, would be sent to investigate.
Police encourage residents to call with parking complaints. All will be addressed, Trevino said.
"It depends on officer availability," Trevino said. "We have to, out of necessity, prioritize our calls ... Nobody is dedicated full time to that. Since staff reductions, we really have to look at how we dedicate our manpower."
Trips Wednesday and Thursday both downtown and to the hospital revealed not one single parking ticket for meter or neighborhood permit violators.
None of the cars parked along Postoffice Street between Eighth and Ninth streets had neighborhood permits.
UTMB Patrolling For Violators
The medical branch warns its employees not to park in the neighborhood district restricted by permits. Medical branch police also enforce those violating the neighborhood permits. Ample paid parking exists on campus, but the parking garage charges $14 per day, hospital spokeswoman Kristen Hensley said.
Patients and visitors seen in the hospital's emergency room receive tokens for free parking in the garage, Hensley said.
After years of consideration, the notion for an $11 million, 400-car parking garage atop the Rail Trail parking lot in downtown Ayer is dead.
A mid-September letter from State Transportation Secretary Jeffrey Mullan sent to the Board of Selectmen put the final nail in the garage coffin.
Mullan reiterated the same list of negatives flagged by his MassDOT staff in August. Those issues include the lack of assembled financing for the garage project, a likely worsening of downtown traffic flow, the distance from the Depot Square train platform, the lack of handicapped accessibility at the train stop, and a sense that the garage was more tailored to meet Ayer business needs instead of those of rail commuters.
Nonetheless, parking plans persist for the Rail Trail site.
A proposal floated as recently as a couple of weeks ago as a smaller scale, $4-5 million, single-deck Rail Trail garage has since been scrapped. In its place, at a Tuesday afternoon meeting at Town Hall, Montachusett Regional Transit Authority (MRTA) Executive Director Mohamed Khan took the wraps off a newly hatched plan for a 190-car, $4 million surface parking lot.
The audience was packed with citizens, businessmen, and the Republican and Democratic contenders for representative for the First Middlesex Disrict. Incumbent state Rep. Robert Hargraves, state Sen. Jamie Eldridge, and Brian Martin, the district director for Lowell Congressman Niki Tsongas, joined to rally around the new parking plan.
MRTA will now flesh out the plan to present for the approval of selectmen at the board's Oct. 19 meeting.
Khan acknowledged major differences with the new surface-lot plan. First, the Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) pledged the Rail Trail parking lot to Ayer in return for a dedicated 50 parking spots in the would-be garage. Khan hopes the DCR will settle instead for just 20 spaces with the parking lot scenario.
Second, the present Rail Trail lot can accommodate 90 spaces. To construct the remaining 100 spaces, five privately owned parcels along Park Street, assessed at a combined $628,500, would need to be purchased at their fair market value following appraisals.
The parcels are:
* "Parcel 3" - assessed at $171,100 last year - the vacant house owned by Charles Vlahos at 15 Park St.;
* "Parcel 4" - assessed at $214,900 this year - the vacant former La Sita restaurant, owned by James and Marsha Januskiewicz as Trustees of the J&M Realty Trust at 13 Park St.;
* "Parcel 5" - assessed at $101,700 this year -Nu-Kar Auto Sales owned by Donald Chapman at 7 Park St.;
* "Parcel 6" - assessed at $137,200 - the building presently housing Fresh Ayer Sports, which rents bicycles aside the Rail Trail, owned by Worthendale Realty Corp. at 5 Park St.;
*"Parcel 7" - assessed at $3,600 - land behind Fresh Ayer Sports, also owned by Worthendale Realty Corp at 3 Park St.
Third, the $3.2 million earmark set aside for Ayer's commuter-rail parking needs by former Congressman Martin Meehan cannot be released for the project without a 20 percent state match. The delegation was asked to scramble for the missing $800,000 state match link.
Ayer officials discovered this past winter that $2 million believed to have been set aside for an Ayer parking garage by former State Sen. Pam Resor were not an earmark. Eldridge reiterated that support from the Patrick administration would ultimately be necessary to garner the release of state transportation funds.
Martin allayed fears that the $3.2 million federal Ayer commuter-rail parking earmark was being targeted for elimination under a measure that's cleared the House and is headed to the Senate to sunset unused transportation earmarks. "Because this is a high-priority project, these funds are not in jeopardy and they would be protected. There are a lot of other earmarks where that is not the case."
Martin elicited laughter by adding, "this earmark is protected as of today ... unless they change the law."
Eldridge said: "The important thing from this meeting is to all get on the same page with this other proposal. We'll do everything we can at the state level, Representative Hargraves and I, to advocate" for state matching funds.
But Hargraves pressed as to whether there's a townwide consensus favoring the Rail Trail site. "I'm a little puzzled ...I just hear these things as to whether this is the most desirable spot or whether the most desirable spot is at Verbeck 9Gate on West Main Street). With that said, is the Board of Selectmen settled on this particular spot here?"
Selectman Carolyn McCreary answered. "There have been four to five boards of selectmen that have voted to support the garage at this downtown location," as well as an "80 percent" consensus at a community meeting held several years back. She also cited prior, nonbinding advisory Town Meeting votes.
"There is some opposition in town. There's no way to get 100 percent buy-in on everything you do, but we do have overwhelming support," McCreary said. She also cited a petition signed by "over 70 businesses in support of this project."
Eldridge asked Khan to ensure the MassDOT objections were all being adequately addressed. "I just want to make sure the counter proposal is responsive and meets all of these specifications or else this will be difficult."
Khan said the issues had already been addressed for MassDOT. The distance from the train stop was a nonissue, Khan said, because the parking facility is within a quarter mile from the train stop, as federal transit regulations require.
On Tsongas' behalf, Martin said, "we support this proposal."
Khan was to fine-tune the revised scope of work for selectmen approval at their Oct. 19 meeting before the MRTA submits the surface parking lot proposal to the MassDOT for consideration.
The $4 million project incorporates pocket projections of $1.25 million for land acquisition, $900,000 of site improvements, a $500,000 Main Street handicapped accessible street crossing solution, a $500,000 cost to negotiate a right of way over private lands at Depot Square to access to the train stop, $400,000 for architectural and engineering work, $100,000 for retaining walls, and a $500,000 contingency pot based on the sum of $5,000 per parking space for the 100 new parking spaces to be built just off Park Street.
Downtown Birmingham's Pierce Street parking garage will soon have a smoother ride up to your car, and be better lit while doing so.
The city plans to install LED lights in the structure's 227 fixtures, replacing old high-pressure sodium bulbs, for a cost of $350,000; $125,000 of that will be federal stimulus money.
Brendan Cousino, assistant city engineer for Birmingham, says he received the final design last week for review, but expects the contract to go out for bid within the next three weeks or so. "The lighting is roughly 25 years old. It's outdated, and we're repairing lights on a regular basis."
He says replacing lights will not only improve the garage's energy savings, but the quality of light in the garage as well. LED lights use a fraction of the electricity of normal bulbs, and they also last several years longer than normal street lights. The city of Birmingham expects to save $18,000 in electricity annually, plus thousands more dollars in maintenance costs.
Also in the Pierce Street parking structure, plans are to replace the elevators this coming summer, first with the elevator at the Brown Street entrance, scheduled to close Oct. 25, and then on the Pierce Street side, scheduled to close in January. The project will run just under $410,000; the elevators currently in place are original to the early 1960s building.
"It's just time," Cousino says. "They've reached the end of their service life."
In another parking structure, the North Old Woodward parking deck, resealing the exterior has been completed, and very smoothly, too, Cousino says, coming in on time and budget. The city added some other work to that job, at the Chester Street parking structure, including replacing some stairs and decking worn down by regular use, for an additional $77,000 or thereabouts to the original $499,000.
And although parking structure maintenance may seem low on the priority list, the interior of a structure is one of the first things a visitor to Birmingham sees, after all. "We hope to maintain a high level of customer service here," Cousino says. "Overall, our goal is to extend the life of these structures as much as possible, and replace as much equipment as possible before it fails."
The head of the city's parking authority floated some eyebrow-raising ideas Tuesday as the task force charged with hashing out the city's new residential permit parking system met for the first time.
The suggestions included the possibility that residents be allowed to sell the permits they buy for a nominal fee for a profit in a secondary market -- a concept that appeared to surprise some of the panel's other members, who seemed prepared to craft a more traditional permit system like the one struck down in Albany by the Court of Appeals in 1988.
While Michael Klein, the authority's executive director, cautioned that he wasn't endorsing any specific idea, he urged the task force not to limit itself merely to what has worked so far in other cities around the state.
"I don't think we should follow the old model, point blank," Klein said, instead suggesting the committee look into a system that uses market forces and incentives -- rather than "rationing and command and control" -- to "sort out the conflicting perspectives."
The conflicting perspectives in question are chiefly those of downtown residents versus those of state workers, who for years have relied on free street parking to counteract the long waiting lists and high cost for a reserved spot in a state-run lot or garage.
In many permit systems, like Albany's last one, a city will issue a parking permit to residents of a particular neighborhood and set times when only permit holders and a limited number of their guests can park there.
This year, 22 years after Albany's last system was abolished and despite strong resistance from state employee unions, the state Legislature finally approved a trial permit system for the city.
It's the job of the eight-member task force appointed by Mayor Jerry Jennings to draft the framework of the law that will ultimately be considered by the Common Council.
The enabling legislation approved by state lawmakers provided little guidance as to how the system would work, beyond limiting it to two years and within three-quarters-of-a-mile of Empire State Plaza.
Other restrictions include the mandate that no more than 2,750 spaces in that radius can be designated for permit-only parking and that parking adjacent to commercially zoned property cannot be included.
The city's traffic engineering and planning departments on Tuesday presented a tentative map of the affected area but with one major caveat: The task force first needs to decide where the center of the parking radius actually falls.
With no guidance in the state law other than it must be at Empire State Plaza, that key decision will be among the first made by the committee, said its chairman, Councilman Richard Conti. An earlier version of the state legislation that never passed put the center of the radius at Hamilton and Swan streets, on the plaza's western edge.
Conti said there are three main areas that have expressed an interest in having permit parking: Center Square/Washington Park/Hudson-Park/Park South, the Mansion Neighborhood and the Ten Broeck Triangle.
One solution, Klein said, might be creating so-called parking benefit districts, in which the revenue from the system could be used to make neighborhood improvements.
Klein urged other panel members to take a step back and evaluate the entire philosophy it wants to embrace before diving into the minutiae of which streets and parking spaces will be included.
But Conti and Councilmen Anton Konev and Ron Bailey, also members of the panel, seemed wary of such a departure.
"I don't think we need to re-invent the wheel," Conti said afterward. "I think the old system, which is used in other cities, works."
A security business owned by former Brown County Sheriff Leon Pieschek lost a hard-fought struggle Tuesday to hold onto a nearly $500,000 parking lot contract with the city of Green Bay.
Despite an appeal from Pieschek to spare his employees' jobs, the City Council voted to shift the contract to a competitor offering the city $15,000 in savings.
"I'm a small business man in Green Bay," Pieschek told the council. "I just want to protect these peoples' jobs."
A council committee had recommended sticking with Pieschek, but a majority of the council argued against spending the extra money.
"It would just be a mockery of our entire system," Alderman Guy Zima said.
At issue was the contract for providing security guards inside city-owned parking decks and parking lots in downtown Green Bay.
For the past five years, the contract belonged to Pieschek Protective Services, which Pieschek started after leaving political office. He had served as county sheriff from 1983 to 1992.
The business also has contracts with the county and city-run transit system to provide security services.
When the city parking lot contract came up for renewal, several competitors tried to wrestle the job away. The city received five proposals ranging from about $460,000 to $500,000 for another five-year contract.
Pieschek Protective Services ranked third lowest, with an offer of $476,361.
City public works officials recommended awarding the job to G4S Secure Solutions Inc., which was the lowest bidder at $460,498.
Chris Pirlot, the city's parking director, said that while he had no complaints about Pieschek, he was impressed by G4S Secure Solutions and the cost savings it offered.
"We're looking at bottom-line fiscal responsibility," Pirlot said.
Aware that his contract was in jeopardy, Pieschek wrote a letter to the city emphasizing his local connections and his credentials as a former sheriff. He also pointed out that the parent company for G4S is headquartered in Florida.
"What value does any of us get by sending our tax money to giant corporations, their management teams and their shareholders out of state?" he wrote.
A representative of G4S attended Tuesday's council meeting and told aldermen that the company has done business locally for four years and would consider hiring any displaced Pieschek employees.
The council voted 11-1 to award the contract to G4S, with Alderman Andy Nicholson casting the only dissenting vote.
Alderman Amy Kocha, chairman of the committee that had recommended Pieschek, said she was initially sympathetic to Pieschek, but she agreed that the lowest cost contract made sense.
"We're the keepers of the taxpayers' dollars," she said. "I do see the value in saving $15,000."
City council and downtown merchants appear to be at an impasse over paid parking in Owen Sound's core.
The board representing downtown business owners is calling for changes to the parking system 21 months after a city committee concluded a one-year study of the issue and drafted recommendations on how to improve it, while ensuring it remains self-sufficient.
"The one-hour free parking isn't enough and it is not equal for all merchants," said Sue Carleton, chairwoman of the Downtown Improvement Area board of management.
Under the current system, vehicles can park for free on 2nd Ave. E., between 8th and 10th streets, for up to one hour. Onstreet parking in the rest of the downtown is metered.
The DIA wants free parking extended to all on-street spots and the time limit increased to two hours.
A parking review committee, which included members of council and the DIA, determined in 2009 that the city would lose too much money by permitting free short-term parking throughout the downtown.
Coun. David Adair, who served on the committee, said he is "frustrated" the paid parking issue continues to come up and believes "it doesn't matter what we do or how much consultation we have," the rules will never please everyone.
"There are truly more important things going on in Owen Sound than parking on a couple blocks in the downtown," he said Tuesday.
Owen Sound's parking system cost $540,000 to operate in 2009. The city collected enough revenue from parking fees and fines to cover the cost, said financial services director Wayne Ritchie.
City hall says a property tax hike of about 4% would be needed if the city moved to a free system.
A DIA recommendation was included in Monday's council package. It calls for a "simplified" parking system, with free two-hour on-street parking, on a "trial basis" from Nov. 19 to Dec. 31. People who wish to park longer would be directed to municipal lots.
"What we are thinking is if we could start with those recommendations, then we could tweak it later, if needed," Carleton said.
In a letter to the city, the DIA asks whether the loss of on-street parking revenue could be recovered by increasing the cost to park in municipal lots and by reducing operating expenses related to enforcement.
Coun. Deb Haswell, a downtown business owner, asked her council colleagues to table the DIA's recommendation until city staff can break down the financial impact of permitting free parking over the Christmas shopping season.
Mayor Ruth Lovell Stanners broke a tie to approve Haswell's motion and further consider the DIA's request once the financial impact is known. A report is expected at council's Oct. 17 meeting, which is just one week ahead of the municipal election.
Councillors Bill Twaddle, Tom Pink and David Adair were among the councillors who voted against Haswell's motion. All three were part of the city's parking review committee, which drafted 20 recommendations to council in 2009.
Adair said the DIA was "fully involved" in the last review of the parking system, but yet is never satisfied with the rules.
He said he is so "frustrated" that he would support handing over the entire parking system -- operating expenses, revenue and all -- to the DIA.
"If the DIA wants to take over parking, they can have it lock, stock and barrel," he said.
The DIA asks council every year to permit free on-street parking ahead of Christmas.
Council allowed it between Dec. 9 and 25 last year, even though it did not approve free parking in December as part of a year-long review of the city's parking rules. The city lost about $30,000 in revenue from the move.
An ad hoc committee, with representatives of council, the public, the DIA and chamber of commerce, also reviewed the city's parking system in 2001, but did not recommend free, on-street parking throughout the downtown.
It turns out that New York City's streets actually are paved with gold -- its tens of thousands of parking meters could be worth $5 billion or more if privatized.
City officials are looking at how other cash-strapped municipalities have already auctioned off the long-term rights to their meters for hundreds of millions of dollars -- and say the move could work for the Apple.
Deputy Mayor Stephen Goldsmith -- assigned by Mayor Bloomberg to find innovative ways to cut spending and increase revenues -- liked the idea enough to bring it up at a city Department of Transportation meeting.
Officials confirmed that the proposal had been discussed. Still, they added that it's not likely to be acted on in the immediate future, given that such a one-shot sell-off of such a revenue generator is out of line with Bloomberg's pledge not to saddle future generations with debts.
"We're always looking at different opportunities for new good ideas," said mayoral spokesman Marc LaVorgna. "But it's not something we're pursuing right now."
Still, if the city's fiscal situation gets desperate enough, the plan could shift quickly to cashing in on the meters.
New York City's meters produced $138.9 million for the city treasury last year and provided jobs to 125 Department of Transportation employees who repair and maintain them.
By some estimates, the city's 50,402 single-space meters and 4,834 Muni Meters could command at least $5 billion if sold to a private firm to run.
Goldsmith was enthusiastic about the idea even before he took office.
"This isn't rocket science," he wrote in Governing magazine in January, six months before he joined the administration. "Most citizens couldn't care less who takes the coins out of their parking meters."
Chicago became the first city in the nation to privatize its meters in December 2008, but not without controversy.
For an upfront payment of $1.15 billion, Mayor Richard Daley gave up revenues from 36,000 downtown meters for 75 years. He also gave up the hefty maintenance bill for the meters.
Critics denounced the deal as a giveaway, especially after the proceeds were used to prop up Chicago's budget that year instead of being invested in long-term capital projects or a rainy-day fund.
"Oh, no!" Chicago Alderman Scott Wauguespack exclaimed after being told that New York officials were studying what his city had done.
"It filled the budget gap for one year," he said. "Now, we've lost our revenue stream for the next 70 or so years."
Parking rates in some Chicago neighborhoods quadrupled as part of the agreement with a private investor group led by Morgan Stanley.
The highest rate increase was in the section of Chicago known as the Loop, where the rate jumped 75 cents in January, to $4.25 an hour.
Last week, Pittsburgh followed Chicago's example and sold a 50-year lease on its parking meters for $452 million. The money will go to shore up its pension funds.
Indianapolis -- which Goldsmith once headed as mayor -- and Los Angeles are examining similar moves.
Parking is now free in a large part of downtown Eugene after city crews pulled out the meters last week. But that left sidewalks lined with polls sticking out.
There has been so much talk in Eugene about how bad downtown looks aesthetically between empty pits, and empty storefronts, and now there are 288 empty poles all over the place.
The hope is by removing the meters, more people will frequent downtown businesses.
And though it's not permanent, the unsightly poles will remain in place for two years.
The old meters were also often used as places for cyclists to lock their bikes up, so the city is looking at hoop clamps made by Oregon-based Creative Metal Works.
The city says it would make the empty poles look nicer and be of some use to cyclists.
"We hope people come downtown. They're walking around they see that and say that's pretty cool to see that. And we hope bicyclists when they're down here have an opportunity to lock their bike up against the hoop," said Jeff Petry, City of Eugene.
The city is looking at the best spots to place the hoops.
Planners say because some areas already have adequate bike racks, it wouldn't be necessary to cover all of these polls with the hoops.
They say the poles that aren't fitted will simply be capped for safety reasons.
The city of Ocala has been talking about building a parking garage downtown for 43 years. On Monday it actually took a step toward doing exactly that.
After listening to presentations from five companies vying to become the consultant and building contractor for such a project, a selection committee decided to recommend that the City Council hire The Beck Group to do the design and engineering work, and that Moss & Associates LLC be hired to construct the garage.
The city's Request of Qualifications outlined three phases of the project: feasibility analysis, document preparation and construction.
The majority of selection committee members liked the The Beck Group and its technology, which allows the company to design and estimate costs simultaneously. The technology is useful for pre-construction and estimating before going out to bid.
Beck, a Dallas-based company with offices in Tampa, takes an integrated approach to its work. Still, Mark House, Beck's managing director, recognized that Ocala needs jobs.
"I am going to strongly recommend you choose a local general contractor to do this project," House told the committee.
He said the general contractor, which oversees construction and hires subcontractors to do the work, will be responsible for 80 percent of the jobs created on this project.
The committee's majority favored Moss & Associates to do the construction work. Moss recently completed the Marion County Judicial Center expansion, which came in on schedule and under budget.
The five companies that responded to the city's Request of Qualifications were Edwards Construction Services, Stentiford Construction Services, Rich & Associates, Moss and Beck. Edwards, Stentiford and Moss are Ocala companies. Rich & Associates, the company that also completed the city's downtown parking study, is from Southfield, Mich.
City Council President Kent Guinn, City Manager Ricky Horst, Assistant City Manager of Development Services John Zobler, City Engineer Bill Stevens and Marc Mondell, director of the city's Office of Long-Term Planning and Sustainability, make up the committee.
Beck will help the city with the site selection, but the City Council will make the final decision about where the 300- to 350-space parking garage will go.
Five sites for a downtown garage were identified in the Parking Study completed in May:
Site "A" is the Murphy Lot north of Silver Springs Boulevard between Magnolia Avenue and Northwest First Avenue.
Site "B" is between Northwest First Street and Northwest Second Street, just west of Northeast First Avenue.
Site "C" is the old Sprint Building lot off Fort King Street across from City Hall.
Lot "D" is the Bank of America lot west of Osceola Avenue and north of Fort King Street.
Site "E" is north of Southwest Second Street and east of Northwest First Avenue.
One of the contenders estimated the cost at about $7 million for a 500-spot garage. He said he thought 300 to 350 spaces might be sufficient for the first garage.
Horst said most of the contenders said it might take about 20 months to build the garage, but he thought it might be possible to reduce that to 18 months.
Although the City Council has not determined where the money will come from to pay for the garage, Horst said after Monday's presentation that money could come from a bond backed by Community Redevelopment Area (CRA) revenue.
Horst also said that a parking lot north of Silver Springs Boulevard, which would include sites "A" and "B," is likely to occur in the future. Site "D" is too small and would require more levels to accommodate 300 to 350 cars.
That leaves the Sprint and Bank of America sites as the likely choices, but Horst said other sites could be considered.
The piercing sound of steel meeting steel resonated throughout Railroad Square and echoed off surrounding historic brick buildings.
Construction of the city's new parking garage has resumed after a two-week delay that followed the collapse of a crane that was about to hammer steel girders into the earth as structural supports for the garage.
The hammering could be heard from a distance.
"It was pretty loud," said Jeff Hickman of Haverhill, who was having lunch with friends at Krueger's Flatbread restaurant, next to the construction site. "Even if there was an earthquake, I'd still come here for lunch. I love this place."
Andrew Herlihy, chief of staff for Mayor James Fiorentini, estimates pile-driving work will last about six weeks and while it is taking place there will be road closings in that area.
Nancy Moussa, who operates Studio 13 at 13 Railroad Square along with her sister Natalie Moussa, said the pile-driving noise can be heard inside their salon but that it is tolerable.
"With the music going and hair dryers, you can hear it but it's not annoying," Natalie Moussa said. "We're not complaining. The garage will be a good thing for the downtown."
The crane that collapsed on the morning of Sept. 13 was working on the $11 million parking garage project that is being overseen by the Merrimack Valley Regional Transportation Authority.
Herlihy said a replacement pile-driver unit arrived at the site earlier than expected, which enabled the construction to restart last week.
"They worked hard to get new equipment on the site," he said.
When that crane collapsed, its operator narrowly escaped serious injury or worse. The cab he was sitting in was crushed after the 80-foot steel pile driving section of the crane snapped off and crashed onto Moulton Way - a public street near the train station. The accident crumpled a nearby concrete barrier and left a small crater in the road.
Herlihy said Moulton Way, between Granite and Essex streets, will be closed to traffic on days when pile-driving work is taking place and will reopen at the end of each work day, although that plan is subject to change.
The crane accident happened the same morning that a Lawrence Superior Court judge denied a request from the Haverhill-based Whittier Health Network to temporarily stop pile-driving and demolition activities from taking place within 100 feet of Whittier's main administrative building at 25 Railroad Square.
Whittier's lawyers had asked to stop construction until the MVRTA provided assurances that the work would not harm computers and other information technology equipment located in the basement of the Whittier building.
"There is imminent risk for irreparable harm to IT equipment," Whittier's petition said. "Any interference (with the computers) would put lives of patients in jeopardy."
During that court hearing, a lawyer for the MVRTA told the judge that a contract between the MVRTA and the general contractor for the project, Colantonio Construction, stipulates that the contractor must immediately stop working and notify nearby property owners if the work causes excessive vibration.
The judge said that was sufficient to safeguard neighbors.
After the hearing, a spokesman for Whittier Health Network said the company finally received the information it was looking for and supports the garage project.
Herlihy said public works officials and police are reviewing a section of Moulton Way near Olivia's and Krueger's Flatbread to determine if an alley that runs alongside the restaurant will be safe to open to traffic.
"We'll be meeting with police and public works to decide what we are going to do," Herlihy said about the city's efforts to minimize the project's impact on businesses in that area.
He said Granite Street will remain open during construction, but may be subject to spot closures.
The Hickory Metro Convention Center plans to use the state's new 1 percent hotel-motel occupancy tax to pay for a parking deck.
The three-level deck will be built on land now used as a surface parking lot, said Bebe Leitch, president of the Hickory Metro Convention & Visitors Bureau.
After accounting for parking spaces lost to construction, the deck will add a net of 330 spaces - a 43 percent increase in parking slots.
The extra spaces will allow the convention center to accommodate larger shows and keep some it could otherwise lose to larger venues, Leitch said. A recent gun show attracted 5,000 visitors.
The source of funding for the parking deck came up at a community meeting last week about replacing two closed city swimming pools. Some participants said that if the city could afford to build a parking deck, it could afford new pools.
After that meeting, City Manager Mick Berry said no local tax money - only taxes paid by people who book hotel rooms - would be used for the parking deck.
The center expects to spend about $4.3 million on the deck. Through the help of the city of Hickory, the center is applying for a $1 million federal grant that would be used for construction. The center is a tax-exempt organization and could not apply directly for the grant itself.
The center also cannot borrow money because of its tax status, so the city tentatively plans to borrow the balance of the deck's construction cost. The convention center would repay that city loan with proceeds from the new 1 percent occupancy tax, Leitch said.
The parking deck loan is similar to the one Hickory made to the tax-exempt group to build the convention center. That original loan will be repaid in 2019.
No city taxpayer funds are used for the construction or operation of the center, Leitch said. Those costs are paid from occupancy tax and event fees paid to the center.
In an effort to save money, city leaders in May cut out the parking meter department and handed the responsibility to city police.
But over the past four months, parking tickets are down 91 percent from the same period last year, and parking fines have dropped by 68 percent, according to city records.
In June, July, August and September 2009, the city issued 2,405 tickets, and in those same months this year, the city wrote only 203 of them. Fines went from $14,345 in those months last year to $4,485 this year.
Police Chief William Clay said that's largely because of the fact that the meter monitoring went from two full-time employees in the old parking meter department to just one police officer, who does the job part-time, and it has taken his department some time to adjust.
Mayor Mark Eckert said he thinks the first months aren't a good measure of how the change ultimately will work out.
"There's been a learning curve of getting used to taking on these duties," Eckert said.
Despite the drop in tickets, city leaders expect they'll still come out ahead, as the salaries and benefits for the two eliminated parking meter positions totaled $110,000 per year. Also the city has doubled parking meter fines to $10 and boosted the charge for parking all day in certain lots from 50 cents to $1.
Clay said his department didn't start fully enforcing the meters until July. He said it took a while to shift responsibilities; he assigned the duty to a DARE officer, who was still finishing up school-year work when the police department took over. Plus, a sergeant in charge of administration of the parking meter job was out of work for surgery for part of that time.
Also, Clay said: "I am not the parking meter police."
Clay didn't ask to take over parking meters; the responsibility was assigned to his department, and existing officers already are tied up with other responsibilities. The police department has left open four vacant positions.
"We'll do the best we can for them, but this is not going to be at the top of our priority list," Clay said. "I'm not going to ignore it, but I'm not putting two officers there."
Clay said some of the biggest culprits are employees of downtown businesses. He hopes that by addressing the problem with business owners, he can get those drivers to comply.
The two full-time employees laid off in the old parking meter department were offered other city jobs that officials said had to be filled. One became a records clerk in the police department and the other declined the offer.
Are there enough parking spaces downtown?
Parking has increasingly been a problem for Belleville, as new businesses and residential lofts enter the picture. A recent study by Kaskaskia Engineering determined that in a 30-block area in the core of downtown, if all of the buildings were filled to their maximum capacity, the city would need another 739 parking spots.
Eckert says city staff is working on solutions to the parking problem, though they haven't disclosed what exactly they hope to do.
Despite the fact that fewer tickets are going out, Marvin's Camera owner Roger Agne said parking complaints from customers haven't gone up since the police department took over. In fact, parking has never been too much of a problem for his business.
"There's parking," he said. "It's just not (always) right in front of our door."
When occasionally one of his customers stays just past the meter expiration and gets a ticket, Agne said, "Usually we pay it for them."
Also, Eckert said he's heard from some residents and business owners that they like seeing uniformed officers walking streets and parking lots.
Is Eckert worried people are now going to take advantage of the relaxed parking enforcement?
"If they are, shame on them," he said. "They will get caught. ... I don't think the public should get complacent."
In 2000, Hélène DeSerres balked at the idea of spending $20,000 to buy a garage spot in the building next door to her Old Montreal condominium.
"I found it very expensive," she recalled.
"I couldn't imagine getting a mortgage for a garage spot."
Six years later, she was even more astonished to discover that a spot at that same neighbouring building on Youville Square was selling for $50,000. This time she bought it.
"Hindsight is 20/20 vision," said DeSerres, the granddaughter of the Quebec arts and crafts chain founder Omer DeSerres.
"I had no idea it would rise to this point."
Compared with United States cities like New York - where an indoor garage spot can sell for $225,000 and up - the cost of buying a standard nine foot by 18 foot parking space in Montreal isn't high.
But in Old Montreal and downtown, where street parking is difficult, and where demand by foreign buyers and suburbanites has grown for prestigious older buildings with few or no spots, real estate brokers have reported selling garage spaces for as much as $100,000 - more than the price of some small South Shore condos.
It's not just a phenomenon at the city's top properties. At Devéloppements McGill Inc.'s new St. Dominique project in the Quartier des spectacles, traditional garage spaces sell for $45,000, alongside condos priced at $350 a square foot.
Garage prices in new construction are rising, buoyed by growing land prices in a strong market, higher building costs and city-enforced restrictions to reduce car usage and promote mass transit and Bixi ridership, developers say.
Some Montreal builders are even considering the use of robotic or mechanized parking, where cars are stacked by a hydraulic lift to save on costs by maximizing garage space.
While the average price of an indoor parking spot in Montreal doesn't exist - spaces are mostly resold privately - brokers, customers and developers alike say property values in certain areas are rising faster for garages than they are for condos.
"The garages in the chic downtown buildings are very expensive," said Royal Le Page broker Marie-Yvonne Paint, who recently sold a spot at the tony Port Royal on Sherbrooke St. W. for $75,000.
"I come from France, where it's accepted not to have a garage. But here the demand is higher. We live in a country that is very difficult in winter."
The influx of wealthy foreign buyers snapping up stable and relatively inexpensive urban real estate, combined with the trend of aging baby boomers leaving their suburban homes for condos in the city, have driven up demand for posh older buildings downtown and in Old Montreal. But many of these buildings have limited or no indoor parking at all, as they were built in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, before cars were popular.
"Old Montreal is a problem, because you have all these historic buildings that weren't built with garages," said Louise Rémillard, founder of Profusion Realty Inc., an affiliate of Christie's Great Estates. "But it comes with the territory. If you want to live there, you know parking is expensive."
Rémillard said she has friends living in Old Montreal who are very happy to not own cars in an area where street parking is difficult, even with a city-issued residential vignette.
There, the lack of street parking and shortage of spots have driven up garage prices in the resale market, brokers say.
At the Caverhill, a building with loft-style condos converted from a historic hardware store in Old Montreal, parking is at a premium, said Liza Kaufman, a broker with Sotheby's International Realty Quebec LK. One tandem parking spot - which has space for two small cars belonging to the same owner - initially sold for $50,000 when the building was converted in 2001, the developer said. That same spot recently sold for $100,000, Développements McGill Inc. said.
"It used to be a given that in Old Montreal you'd park outside," Kaufman recalled.
"Now, what everyone looks for in Old Montreal is a terrace and a garage space. Foreign buyers, who are the ones who drive our market, want indoor parking because of the winters here."
Kaufman and Paint said it's significantly more challenging to sell apartments without a parking spot.
Kaufman and her team are now selling three multimillion-dollar apartments without garages at the St. Regis - the 116-year-old former Canada Life building that was converted into condos.
"The apartments are stunning, but people don't always want to buy because of the parking situation," she said.
But even Old Montreal can't compete with the prices on some downtown garages. At the new Ritz-Carlton Residences on Sherbrooke St. W., buyers of units without parking, or buyers who want additional space, are being charged $100,000 a spot.
Across the street, Le Château building residents - who now park in an outside courtyard - are considering whether to build a robotic or traditional underground garage for a proposed $70,000 a spot. While Château residents have flirted with the idea, owners feel the absence of a garage is negatively affecting property values at the posh building, an internal memo says.
The high cost at Château comes with the technical difficulties of building a garage under an existing building, developers say.
It's a challenge that's becoming more common these days, with rising land prices and a shortage of urban land for development prompting more and more builders to convert historic buildings into condos. Even installing parking spots under new buildings in urban areas is expensive, because the high cost of land forces developers to dig deep, inefficient garages.
In 2007, during the first phase of DevMcGill's M9 residential project near the Bonaventure Expressway, garages were sold for $32,500 a spot. Today, third-phase garage spots, which are more complicated to build, are being sold for about $45,000.
Louis Migneault, DevMcGill's vice-president (operations and marketing), says the company isn't taking advantage of high parking demand and inflating garage prices. On the contrary, he said DevMcGill breaks even, or even loses money on the sale of garage spaces.
"Our goal is to sell our condos," Migneault said. "It's not to speculate on parking."
Since land is expensive, developers are being forced to dig deeper and build multi-level garages to save money. But unlike one-level garages where the available space can be maximized, multi-level garages are more labour-intensive to build and are inefficient because they waste space on ramps, for example, that could be used to house cars.
"We're looking to create the maximum amount of parking spots in the minimum amount of space," explained David Hilf, DevMcGill's vice-president (operations).
The third phase of M9, which will have a three-level garage, requires a 1.5-metre-thick slab of concrete to counteract the pressure of the St. Lawrence River below, Hilf explained.
More challenging projects like these cost developers $75 a square foot or more, compared with the $100 to $200 a square foot required to build a mid-priced condominium, he said.
By contrast, garages built on larger single-level sites - like DevMcGill's Square Benny project in Notre Dame de Grâce - cost $27,000 a spot to buy because they cost only about $65 a square foot to build.
But other developers argue it's not just construction costs, but the city's limitations on construction that are driving up the price of garages. While DevMcGill says the company builds enough parking to meet demand, Kodem Developments Inc. president Benjamin Sternthal said his clients want more spaces than he can build.
The Ville Marie borough requires developers of large residential buildings to build between 0.5 spots and 1.5 spots per unit, as a way of discouraging car use. But in Sternthal's experience, a benchmark of 1.8 spots per unit is often required to meet demand on some projects.
"I find when we go under this number, we're tight," he said. "That's why I think we're making a mistake as a city in limiting our parking infrastructure in our residential buildings. Because you can't go back and rebuild after.
"You're not going to force people to leave their cars."
A majority of Broad Street businesses surveyed last week say downtown parking is a problem, but only about 18 percent backed a proposal to write more tickets.
The Augusta Chronicle called or visited 103 businesses. Of that number, 69 responded on the record.
Asked whether parking is a problem, 36 said yes and 31 said no. Only 13 said they support Downtown Development Authority Director Margaret Woodard's latest proposal, to have the DDA itself enforce a two-hour parking restriction and raise the fine for violators to $25.
"That would be an H-no," said Elliott Walker, the owner of Georgia-Carolina Restaurant Supply in the 500 block of Broad Street. "All these people that come downtown to nightclubs and restaurants, if they're going to get a $25 ticket, they're going to go somewhere on Washington Road."
Devran Roos, of Rock Bottom Music Center, where a downtown fountain occupies the median in front of his business, said: "We have the fountain here, instead of parking, which seems to attract people taking a bath."
Like some other downtown businesses, he has no off-street parking, and the plan would mean that "every employee would have to move their car every two hours," Roos said.
"We need a parking deck, somewhere people can come downtown and know where to park and be comfortable," suggested Sieglinde Boykin, whose Coffee Break customers sometimes find a shortage of parking spaces.
City Club and Cotton Patch owner Bryan Mitchell remarked about the inconsistency in parking enforcement over the years, saying he and co-workers used to laugh when their vehicles were ticketed and would fearlessly toss the tickets away.
"I don't know that the DDA approach is the right approach," he said. "You don't want to give people another reason not to come downtown."
In the 800 block of Broad, businesses complained about Board of Education employees parking in the medians instead of using the board's parking deck behind the school board offices.
"The biggest problem we have is the school board," said Les Rhodes, the owner of Discount Fashions. "If they would utilize their parking facility over there, other than during functions downtown, (parking) wouldn't be a problem."
Ave Peoples said her Velocity Studio has off-street parking, so it isn't a problem, but she suggested that downtown employees be issued passes to park if the DDA proposal were implemented.
"I think they are making much to-do about nothing," said D. Bruker, the president of an insurance office in the 900 block of Broad. "I support the DDA and think the world of Margaret Woodard. To me, they are looking for a revenue source."
One of a handful undecided about the DDA plan is Book Tavern owner David Hutchison, the president of the Downtown Augusta Alliance. He said he wished downtown parking would simply be enforced by the sheriff's office.
"But since they're unwilling or unable to do it, if the DDA is the only alternative," said Hutchison, whose business is in the 1000 block of Broad, "I'm willing to let that experiment run its course."
Nearby Ruben's Department Store owner Jeff Gorelick said that the city should use money originally intended for parking meters for "security downtown, keeping downtown clean and installing video cameras downtown."
At Nan's Collections, the owner said that when employees parked behind or even in front of the business, their cars were broken into.
"There's something wrong," she said.
In support of the DDA plan, Whitehouse Antiques owner Kay White said that parking was a problem and that the DDA should enforce it.
"We have one policeman assigned to Broad Street, and he doesn't have time to walk up and down the street. ... He's tied up at Fourth and Fifth streets dealing with all the drug issues and prostitutes," White said.
"Enforcement is so sporadic," said Jai West, the owner of Casablanca Café. "It's confusing to people who get a ticket."
Ooollee Bricker, the owner of Vintage Ooollee in the 1100 block of Broad, said that "one of the big problems is there are people who work down here and live down here and don't have designated parking."
In the 1200 block of Broad, management at Sunshine Bakery, Sweet Lou's Crab Shack, Merry's Trash and Treasures, and International Uniform each said they had no problem with the existing customer parking available.
"I don't see that it's that big of an issue," said Ashlee Ward at the uniform and sportswear store.
"I think parking downtown is a problem of perception more than a real problem," said Shishir Chokshi, the owner of Frameworks.
Chokshi said that if people were willing to walk just a block, "there's parking everywhere downtown."