Boise & Garden City

Would you drive drunk to avoid a parking ticket in Downtown Boise?

The city of Boise is considering a proposal to change its parking rates for metered spots. Charging to park on Saturdays one part of the proposal.
The city of Boise is considering a proposal to change its parking rates for metered spots. Charging to park on Saturdays one part of the proposal.

Every Friday night, hundreds of people drive to Downtown Boise to hang out at bars and restaurants.

Many leave their cars parked in metered spots overnight because they’ve had a few drinks. Taking a cab is the responsible way to get home. They don’t have to worry about parking tickets because Boise doesn’t charge for parking in metered spots on Saturdays and Sundays.

The weekend exception might be on the chopping block, though. The Boise City Council is scheduled to hear a proposal Tuesday that would increase metered parking rates; extend hours when parking at a metered spot costs money, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. on weekdays, and charge for parking from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturdays. The first 20 minutes of parking would still be free.

Three members of the Boise City Council — which will decide the fate of the parking proposal — said Monday that they’re worried about Saturday enforcement. They said it could encourage people to drive drunk because someone who’s had a few drinks on a Friday night might run the risk of driving to avoid a parking ticket the next day.

Councilwoman Maryanne Jordan said she didn’t want the city to be the reason someone with impaired judgment makes a bad decision.

“You want to encourage people to do the right thing,” she said.

Councilman T.J. Thomson said he’s leaning toward opposing the Saturday feature, partly because of the DUI incentive and partly because he’s worried that charging for parking will persuade people to avoid Downtown altogether. Instead of meeting friends for a Saturday lunch or buying a suit Downtown, he said, shoppers might prefer places like The Village at Meridian, a shopping mall that’s been a destination for retailers leaving Downtown Boise.

Councilman Scot Ludwig agreed with Thomson’s assessment.

“You’re going to drive business out of Downtown,” Ludwig said. “We’re still in the infancy of evolving our Downtown. Until we get more of a residential component that can sustain the restaurants and the retail, charging for parking, to me, obstructs the vibrancy we’re pursuing.”

The proposed parking rate changes are aimed at helping Downtown businesses, particularly retailers. City staffers say the owners of Downtown shops complain that people park in front of their stores for hours at a time — or overnight — hurting business because it makes access more difficult.

They predict that raising rates at metered spots closest to the Downtown core will encourage parking turnover. They also say people parking Downtown after 8 p.m. on Fridays would be able to prepay for two hours of Saturday morning parking, giving them until 10 a.m. on Saturdays to pick up their vehicles.

During a work session Tuesday, the council directed staff to develop ideas for changing the Saturday enforcement proposal. The goal with these tweaks would be to avoid drunken driving while helping Downtown businesses.

A tentative schedule calls for the City Council to hold a public hearing on the parking proposal Dec. 12. Final approval would come Tuesday, Dec. 19. The new rates would take effect Feb. 1.