Boise puts brakes on parking plan

Councilors want time to weigh a rate increase for meters, as well as enforcement hours.

sberg@idahostatesman.comJuly 24, 2013 


    The Ada County Highway District will consider a proposal Wednesday that would authorize the city to continue installing vehicle-detection sensors in metered parking spots Downtown. The sensors enable the monitoring of the spaces.

    The meeting begins at 6 p.m. at the highway district’s headquarters, 3775 Adams St., Garden City.

In three-minute bursts Tuesday, 26 business advocates, entrepreneurs and members of the public let the Boise City Council know exactly what they thought of a proposal to raise parking fees and increase the days and hours people have to pay to park in Downtown metered spots.

Many didn’t buy the city’s claim that the proposal was designed to encourage turnover in front of stores, not bring more money into city coffers.

“To me it seems like the city’s just greedy,” said Judy Rogers, a resident who said she’ll stop coming Downtown if the city passes the increases.

Charging people more to park Downtown would hurt businesses, not help them, said Barbara Krogh, co-owner of Barbara Barbara, a women’s clothing store on Bannock Street.

“I’ve kind of woken up saying, ‘In what universe do you think this is going to benefit the merchants of Downtown?’ ” Krogh said. “I’m kind of outraged by the whole thing, and I think nobody’s taking the merchants — especially the small merchants — into consideration.”

Mayor Dave Bieter said concerns about the “fragility of the market right now” were the most common feedback he’d heard from constituents.

The proposal before the council was to charge $1.50 for the first hour of metered parking citywide and $3 for the second hour. A one-year pilot program would charge for metered parking from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday between Jefferson, Myrtle, 5th and 10th streets. The current enforcement schedule is 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. on weekdays only.

Some commenters at Tuesday’s three-hour hearing worried that more costly parking would weaken Boise’s ability to compete with malls and businesses throughout the Treasure Valley.

Bigger parking bills for service workers and low-income people was another concern.

Boise resident Heather Roberts predicted that charging for Downtown parking on Saturdays would encourage people to drive after drinking Friday night in order to avoid a Saturday morning parking ticket.

Councilwoman Maryanne Jordan wondered whether the city could carve out an exception for those merrymakers “until they shook it off about noon on Saturday.”

All of those concerns are exactly what the council needs to review before settling on a fee structure and enforcement schedule, Councilwoman Elaine Clegg said.

Councilmen Ben Quintana and T.J. Thomson suggested that the city use new meters and monitoring technology to study parking patterns for at least six months without raising rates or extending the period during which people have to pay.

But Councilwoman Lauren McLean said research has shown that higher rates and extended enforcement hours would achieve the city’s desired outcome: increased turnover at metered parking.

Thomson predicted that new technology — meters that allow credit card payments and sensors in the parking spots that zero out any time leftover when a motorist pulls away — will accomplish some of that turnover.

New smart meters, being installed around Downtown, were the one innovation that council members universally embraced.

Clegg, McLean and Councilman David Eberle suggested that the city take a closer look at how much parking costs in specific zones. McLean and Clegg said the cost of parking should reflect its value, with the most desired Downtown spots costing most.

Clegg said the council will bring forward a new proposal in the next few months. Some increase in rates, though unpopular, is likely, she said.

Sven Berg: 377-6275

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