Boise & Garden City

Parking in Downtown Boise could soon cost more, and Saturdays might not be free

Parking rates in metered spots nearest the core of Downtown Boise, such as these two in front of City Hall, could soon increase.
Parking rates in metered spots nearest the core of Downtown Boise, such as these two in front of City Hall, could soon increase.

City of Boise staffers say the parking rate increases they’re about to propose would make finding a space in the Downtown core easier, because people would be more likely to leave their spots sooner.

They could dramatically change drivers’ habits on Saturdays in particular if one aspect, charging for what in recent years has been a free parking day, remains part of the plan.

The increases are a continuation of Boise’s effort to encourage people to use the most popular spaces only for short stays, such as a quick trip into a store or a restaurant. Staffers say it’s part of a broader effort to make Downtown more accessible to more people.

Last year, the city implemented a three-tiered system that charges people more to park in metered spots closest to the heart of Downtown. The most expensive area, known as Zone 1, is between 6th, 10th, Bannock and Grove streets, as well as the six blocks between Capitol Boulevard and Grove, Myrtle and 9th streets. If the proposed rate hike goes into effect, parking in Zone 1 will cost $2 for the first hour and $3 for the second hour, instead of $1.50 and $2.50 respectively.

The second zone is essentially the block of streets surrounding the Zone 1. The cost of parking there would increase from $1 for the first hour and $1.25 for the second, to $1.25 and $2.

Zone 3 includes the rest of Downtown’s metered spaces, as far west as 15th Street and as far east as 2nd Street. The city wouldn’t change parking rates in this area, which costs less and has more meters than the other two zones combined.

Parking for the first 20 minutes would still be free in any metered spots.

The city hasn’t calculated how much more money the new rates would generate, spokeswoman Lana Graybeal said Monday.

This proposal is not an attempt to raise more money for Boise’s coffers, Graybeal said. The idea is to increase turnover in parking spots by discouraging long stays, similar to how Capital City Development Corp. recently voted to raise parking rates in Downtown garages to create more turnover and space there. People who plan to be Downtown for more than an hour or two might find it’s worthwhile to walk a few more blocks.

Some Downtown business owners have chafed at seeing spots in front of their shops occupied by the same cars for hours at a time.

To that end, city staff will also suggest charging for parking in metered spots on Saturdays. Today, metered spots are free on weekends. Metered parking would cost money for an extra two hours as well, with enforcement stopping at 8 p.m. instead of 6 p.m.

Craig Croner, Boise’s administrative services manager, said the tiered parking system implemented last year has helped reduce the share of parking money that comes from parking tickets, from about two-thirds to about one-half. This proposal would further that effort, Croner said.

“We don’t want a punitive system,” he said.

Staff plans to introduce their proposal to the City Council at a Dec. 5 work session. They anticipate a public hearing and the first of three required readings of the law to happen the following week.

If all goes according to plan, the rate hike would take effect Feb. 1 — the same day parking rates in Downtown garages are scheduled to go up.