Archive for Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Business group may ask city to raise downtown parking rates

Several leaders of Downtown Lawrence Inc. on Wednesday were open to the idea of increasing the price people must pay to get a parking spot along Massachusetts Street.

February 11, 2009

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There’s more than a nickel’s worth of interest in increasing the rates at downtown parking meters.

Several leaders of Downtown Lawrence Inc. on Wednesday were open to the idea of increasing the price people must pay to get a parking spot along Massachusetts Street.

“We’re probably out of step with what is going on elsewhere,” said Bob Schumm, a downtown restaurant owner, of parking rates charged in Lawrence.

Schumm is leading a group of downtown business owners who are coming up with suggestions on how the city may want to change its parking system. The report is expected to be presented to Downtown Lawrence Inc. in early March, and to city commissioners sometime after that.

So far, no one has suggested a specific amount that fees should be increased.

Currently, the city charges a nickel for 12 minutes, a dime for 24 minutes and a quarter for 60 minutes at meters along Massachusetts Street. The meters have a two-hour time limit.

“It is pretty inexpensive here,” said Judy Billings, leader of the Lawrence Convention and Visitors Bureau. “Just this weekend, I overheard people from out of town saying how cheap it is to put money in our parking meters.”

Merchants said they’re studying the issue because it appears likely that city commissioners will consider increasing parking rates. City Manager David Corliss has said he likely will ask city commissioners to consider an increase in parking fees to help deal with tight budget times. Merchants hope any new money will be used to preserve downtown maintenance programs and other projects.

In 2007, parking fees and overdue parking fines generated $898,803, but the city spent $1.01 million in parking-related expenses. The parking fund pays for not only the employees who monitor the meters but also pays for three police officers and two court clerk workers,

It wasn’t immediately clear when the city last increased parking meter rates. In 2004, commissioners increased the overdue parking fine to $2.

Leaders with Downtown Lawrence said they know commissioners may consider increasing overdue fines as well. Several business owners, though, said they would rather see the city focus on increasing the price at the meters rather than significantly increasing the fine for parking too long. Several said they thought the fines had more potential to leave customers with hard feelings about their downtown experience.

Other ideas that were discussed at Wednesday’s downtown meeting:

• Expanding the hours that the city charges people to park. Currently, the meters are required to be paid from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Several business owners said the city could increase its revenue by extending the hours to cover the evening dinner crowd.

• Reducing the two-hour maximum time limit on Massachusetts Street parking meters. Some said reducing the time should make it more likely that parking spaces will become available to other shoppers more frequently, but others said they were concerned it would cause shoppers to rush their visit to downtown.

• Creating short-term parking spaces in the middle of each block. The spaces would allow people to park for up to 15 minutes in order to quickly visit a business.

• Encouraging employers to closely monitor where their employees park. Several merchants said too many downtown employees continue to use parking spaces on Massachusetts Street or the nearby two-hour lots.

“I think it should be part of the culture of your business,” said Dan Hughes, an owner of Sunflower Outdoor and Bike Shop. “It is in our employee manual that customers are entitled to the best parking spots.”

— Visit City reporter Chad Lawhorn's Town Talk blog.

Comments

Puff_Dragon 6 years, 5 months ago

I got an over the limit ticket in Topeka a couple months ago and it was $8.00. The meters are costly also.

WHY 6 years, 5 months ago

If they don't increase the ticket fine then it will be cheaper to take a chance on the $2 ticket rather than to look for enough change to feed the meter.

gccs14r 6 years, 5 months ago

Meter revenue can be used only to pay for parking enforcement. Looks like we're a bit in the red, so a bit of an increase would be OK legally, but it's not some secret untapped revenue stream that downtown merchants or the City can get their hands on.

spankyandcranky 6 years, 5 months ago

I think some short-term parking meters on each block and the increase in meter fees are a great idea. The fees are much lower than in any other city I've been in. And since the state is taking away the city's revenue from liquor tax, it's a way to counterbalance some of the loss without creating a lot of inconvenience, if it's done in a resonable way. Increasing fees and reducing the two-hour limit for all the meters is a bad idea -- we already have fines for that and they've been increased recently. The city will end up with people not wanting to shop/eat downtown to support our local businesses if they think they're going to pay more than $2 for returning late to their vehicles.

madameX 6 years, 5 months ago

Okay, where exactly do they expect downtown employees to park? Along Mass street and in the two hour lots covers a big chunk of the available parking. I used to work downtown and I parked where there was an open spot because they were frequently hard to come by. If there was some sort of designated downtown employee parking no one was taking advantage of (actually maybe not a bad idea, then they could also ticket non-employees that take it) that would be one thing, but a lot of the time downtown employees don't really have very many parking options.

cowboy 6 years, 5 months ago

I posted about a week ago how the parking enforcement barely paid for itself. This was after a ten minute look at the city budget. Why can't any of the rocket scientists at city hall look at it and come to the same conclusion ?Why , because they don't want to . They don't want to make any hard decisions at all , just collect their overrated salaries and rake in the cash. Why not eliminate parking meters altogether. It would be a net gain. The city ought to be doing everything they can to drive retail / restaurant sales not upping the parkeing fees. While youre at it get rid of the frigging bums too ! Maybe families and older ones would increase the downtown traffic.

gccs14r 6 years, 5 months ago

If the meters weren't there, the enforcement officers would have to chalk-mark everyone and we would be even farther in the hole with paying for enforcement. There has to be some kind of limit on parking, or people will squat on the spaces. Look at madameX above. She works downtown, but is willing to take a scarce customer spot (the people who pay her wages) rather than park in the parking garage and walk 3-4 blocks to work. If they want to get rid of the meters and not worry about enforcement, they'll convert downtown into a pedestrian mall from 7th to 11th, including the cross streets, and gate the parking garage with a manned booth. All the businesses along the mall could then have a fenced 15' outdoor retail/drinking/smoking zone if they so choose.

cowboy 6 years, 5 months ago

You missed my point gccc , get rid of the meters and the enforcement , get rid of the bums , turn it into a mall would be awesome !

appleaday 6 years, 5 months ago

Keep buying Chinese products, Barry! Put more Americans out of work. And I'm not saying everything on Mass is American made -- just more likely to be.

Charles L Bloss Jr 6 years, 5 months ago

Just another was to destroy your downtown, like Topeka has. Thank you, Lynn

somebodynew 6 years, 5 months ago

For those of you calling for a pedestrian mall - - I lived in a city that did just that a long time ago. It absolutly killed the downtown. And I have read of several other cities that the same thing happened to. Now, in all fairness, the bar scene may make this different, but then you kill the thing you are trying to protect - small business and shopping.I now work in Topeka (still live here thank goodness) and see an interesting thing. On the main street (Kansas) like Mass. in Lawrence, there is free 2 hour parking. On the side streets there are meters. The meters are expensive (85c per hour??) but the main drag is free. And they do enforce it, somewhat. The only problem is, there really isn't anything down there for you to park over two hours. Not sure if there is a corelation to anything since I haven't been there that long, but thought I would throw this out for discussion.

Confrontation 6 years, 5 months ago

Yeah, this will really get people downtown to overpriced stores.

rusty2 6 years, 5 months ago

Laguna Beach is $2.00 per hour / that's 8 quarters with a 2 hr. limit.Lawrence is just like Laguna except for no ocean & a completely different climate.

rusty2 6 years, 5 months ago

even the Country Club Plaza has reasonable parking meters.raise the really low rates on Vermont & New Hampshire.leave MASS alone!what the hell does Schumm know! he runs a terrible restaurant.

rusty2 6 years, 5 months ago

no meters after 6pm. or else kiss the restaurant business goodbye.

alm77 6 years, 5 months ago

Um, let's see. Last year the income was almost $900,000 and the cost was $1,000,000 a shortage of only $100,000. SO, let's double the parking meter fees, double the tickets and we'll have a $1,800,000 income with a $800,000 surplus. Then we can not only keep the CROSSING GUARDS, but also give them a raise!! I don't remember the cost of the nature center, but that might be covered too. No one who pays a nickel, a dime or a quarter for parking is going to baulk at paying two.

delta77 6 years, 5 months ago

I don't think many people would complain if the rates went up a little bit. Good for the city taking advantage of the easy extra revenue.As far as downtown employees, well that's a sensitive issue. I think anyone who has worked as a low-level employee downtown would understand this... If you're paying me $5.15 an hour and expecting me to show up on time, don't expect me to care enough to park 6 blocks away and walk in January. I know that sounds like a bad attitude, but it's in response to businesses that pay next to nothing and don't give a crap about their employees.If anything, raising parking fees will probably decrease the number of employees parking on Mass.

Omegatron 6 years, 5 months ago

"Currently, the city charges a nickel for 12 minutes, a dime for 24 minutes and a quarter for 60 minutes at meters along Massachusetts Street. The meters have a two-hour time limit."Nickle 6 min, Dime 12min, Quarter 30 min."Expanding the hours that the city charges people to park. Currently, the meters are required to be paid from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Several business owners said the city could increase its revenue by extending the hours to cover the evening dinner crowd."9:30am to 2am. Monday through Saturday. 9:30am to 5pm on Sunday."Reducing the two-hour maximum time limit on Massachusetts Street parking meters. Some said reducing the time should make it more likely that parking spaces will become available to other shoppers more frequently, but others said they were concerned it would cause shoppers to rush their visit to downtown."Bad ideal..."Creating short-term parking spaces in the middle of each block. The spaces would allow people to park for up to 15 minutes in order to quickly visit a business."Bad Ideal..."Encouraging employers to closely monitor where their employees park. Several merchants said too many downtown employees continue to use parking spaces on Massachusetts Street or the nearby two-hour lots."Color code the two-hour lots like they do on campus.One color for customers, another for employees. Require employees to buy parking passes that will enable them to park in those spots for their shift.Fines for anyone who parks in the wrong colored spot.Put meters on all customer spots.

Omegatron 6 years, 5 months ago

“Reducing the two-hour maximum time limit on Massachusetts Street parking meters. Some said reducing the time should make it more likely that parking spaces will become available to other shoppers more frequently, but others said they were concerned it would cause shoppers to rush their visit to downtown.”Don't know how smart the meter software is. But if it is able to handle multiple tasks, program the meters for 2 hour max between 9:30 am and 9pm, then increase to 5 hours between 9pm and 2am.That'll cover the dinner and bar/concert (liberty hall/grenada) crowds.

KU_cynic 6 years, 5 months ago

Doubling meter prices and fines would be a modest step forward given the low cost of parking. I also favor extending hours; otherwise daytime patrons of retailers subsidize nighttime patrons of bars and restaurants.On the other hand, if the goal is to increase revenue then given the high cost of meter collection and enforcement why not make parking free to patrons but charge all businesses in the downtown area a fee based on their sales tax collections? That would make day and nighttime businesses pay equally for parking for their customers. Also, the same business owners would then get the rights to decide how to spend the money on downtown promotion and beautification efforts.

skinny 6 years, 5 months ago

guess I'll just shop at Wal-Mart and Target!Free parking there

Godot 6 years, 5 months ago

II agree with KU Cynic. The city can trim $210,000 from the budget by eliminating parking meters and fines altogether.

cowboy 6 years, 5 months ago

two issues , cost of enforcement program , making downtown friendly . i agree with ku cynic to get rid of the enforcement and meters but feel that DTL needs to quit breastfeeding off the city coffers and the businesses can do like every other one in town and deal with their own flowers and event underwriting. If parking were free and the city got rid of the bums more people would venture downtown and revenues would increase , more businesses survive , and more sales tax for the city. It's a win , win , win. Move special events under a parks and rec position and make it pay for itself. hire a promotions / events person and let them bring forward an events calendar. Move the DTL function into the chamber , they don't appear to do much of anything else anyway. And while youre at it audit the effectiveness of the Convention and Visitors bureau , close to a million dollars spent their annually for what ? Are we getting our money's worth out of that ?

pace 6 years, 5 months ago

I support the extended hours the most. I would rather see higher parking costs for vehicles than the free subsidized parking.

rusty2 6 years, 5 months ago

pace extended hours will be the death knell of downtown. ending happy hour & restaurant business and simply making downtown turn more to late hour bar business.

Chris Ogle 6 years, 5 months ago

Sorry, gave all my change to the homeless. Better run to my car so I don't get a ticket. I love Downtown Lawrence!!

hubcap 6 years, 5 months ago

FREE PARKING on roof of parking garage

rusty2 6 years, 5 months ago

thanks Godot / that elimination of meters would be a true stimulus package for downtown!

Godot 6 years, 5 months ago

I misspoke about eliminating the meters. That would cost money. Just tie colorful bags that bear the word "Welcome" over the meters.

Godot 6 years, 5 months ago

Punishment, punishment, punishment, that's the ticket! Higher fees will definitely attract people downtown to shop.

Chris Ogle 6 years, 5 months ago

New signs for meters: Sorry, we are open.

Godot 6 years, 5 months ago

In the past I called for higher parking fees - that was without the knowledge that the current fees only cover about 80% of the cost of having fees.

Cut the fees and reduce the city budget by $210,000 - that is a no brainer.

1029 6 years, 5 months ago

A) Suggesting money to be put in the meters 24/7 is probably the dumbest idea I have heard so far in 2009. How much will it cost for someone to be checking these meters all night? If you don't at least make people think that they are being checked, people will learn to never pay at night. Do bar owners really want people constantly coming and going because they have to put money in the meter? Do amateur bartenders really need to move any slower because of the added burden of constantly making change for people? There's numerous other reasons why such an idea would never work or even gain widespread acceptance.

B) They should at least double or triple the cost to park downtown. It's ridiculous to watch SUVs go up and down Mass (especially on the weekends) just waiting for a space to open up so that its lazy riders and driver don't have to (god forbid) use their legs and walk. Especially when that one last car just has to try to make it across an intersection before the light changes and ends up blocking all traffic because somebody five or six cars up is waiting for someone to leave so that they can take a parking space.

However, I 100% agree that they should make at least a few block of Mass (10th to 8th, or 10th to 7th) into a pedestrian mall with sidewalk dining, info/vending booths, artists, entertainment, etc. People could drink and stroll around and spend money, etc. (maybe this is where the homeless rickshaw idea could be tied in—all those lazy people could spread the wealth around and get pulled in rickshaws.)

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