Thursday, October 11, 2012

City Council Hears More on Parking Meter Proposal

By Christina Georgiou

After discussing the possibility of enacting additional fines for "lazy double parking" at their workshop meeting Tuesday evening, members of city council heard a presentation on the proposed metered parking rate hike and the administration's plan for installing smart meters that accept credit and debit cards in the most heavily trafficked parts of Downtown Easton.

City Administrator Glenn Steckman said the rate increase, already enacted by city ordinance but not yet implemented, would increase revenue and would be used to create a dedicated funding stream for the Greater Easton Development Partnership and also help fund future parking mananagement system growth.

While most of the presentation further explained changes that might come with the 2013 budget if it is approved as the administration is proposing, Wednesday evening's presentation did include some minor changes and clarifications.

Specifically the plan would:
  • Change the hours of meter operation and parking enforcement of all Downtown parking meters to 9 a.m. to 8 p.m., Monday through Saturday
  • Put metered parking into operation in some locations Downtown from noon to 5 p.m. on Sundays, most likely on or south of Northampton Street and on the Centre Square
  • Increase the time limit for Downtown street parking except on Centre Square from two to three hours
  • Install about 200 smart meters in the Downtown core, from Second to Fourth streets and from Spring Garden to Ferry streets
  • Install multi-space payment boxes at three surface parking lots at an estimated cost of $24,000 to $40,000, with the variable in price being dependent on the type of box and its capabilities the city chooses
  • Offer a discount of $5 on all parking tickets paid within 24 hours, with the discount offer for those being issued on a Friday, Saturday or Sunday being good through the close of the business day on Monday
  • Add better signage to guide city visitors to parking areas
  • Create a pass program for those who work nights to park at a discounted rate in the city parking garage
Steckman said the city would also consider lowering the rate for parking in the deck from $1 per hour to 50c and hour between 5 and 9 p.m.

City council members offered various opinions on parts of the proposal.

Councilman Roger Ruggles, whose wife Sue Ruggles leads the congregation at St. John's Lutheran Church on Ferry Street, said he didn't like the idea of charging on Sundays.

"I'd be really, really, really against this one," Ruggles said. "For one thing, 12 o'clock is too early."

"The whole reason here is to capture Crayola. Crayola is going to be bringing in more people, and we need to pay for Ambassadors and stuff," Mayor Sal Panto said.

Councilwoman El Warner said the time change and having metered parking at only some locations on Sundays seemed inconsistent.

"Either do it six days a week, or do it seven days a week. But don't do it halfway," she said.

Panto said the estimated increase in revenue would be about $235,000. While that's less than the city's contribution to GEDP, it's approximately the difference between the annual $170,000 the city has given to the organization in the past and the $355,000 it plans to contribute for 2013, he added.

The remainder would go toward funding an additional parking enforcement officer, which would cost the city about $60,000 including salary and benefits.

Warner questioned how much purchasing smart meters would cut into the estimated revenue increase.

"I want to know exactly how much we're paying and how much we'll make," she said.

Panto said the purchase cost wouldn't cut into the revenue increase because the city would be using its capital funds to "loan" the money to itself, but the revenue would be going into the city's operating budget.

"Regardless, we really still need to upgrade the technology," he said.

Steckman added that the majority of the increased revenue would be coming from the anticipated increase in traffic from additional Crayola visitors generated by their expansion.

"The value is from replacing some of our (old mechanical meters) that keep breaking down and selling them. They do have value, even if it's just scrap metal," he said.

Some members of council also wondered if it would be better to alter the proposal to run meters for 12 hours a day.

Panto said the administration will bring estimates of what it thinks would be generated if the hours of operation were either 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. or 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., and also estimates of what would be generated if the city were to raise rates to $1 per hour instead.

Councilman Jeff Warren said he feels that would be too much.

"I could support 75c but not a dollar," he said. "I think going from 50c to $1 (per hour) would just send shock waves through the community."

"We will put together an entire matrix (of the possibilities)," Panto said, adding that the administration will have it done in time  to present it for the city budget hearing on Tuesday, October 13.

No comments:

Post a Comment