Boise & Garden City

Boise might keep Saturday parking free Downtown but impose time limit

Boise is considering changing its parking rates for metered spots. Charging to park on Saturdays is part of the proposal.
Boise is considering changing its parking rates for metered spots. Charging to park on Saturdays is part of the proposal. Idaho Statesman file

At the City Council’s request last week, Boise staffers have developed four options for handling Saturday parking in Downtown Boise. The council wants to hear from the public about them at a hearing Tuesday. They are:

▪  Charge for parking in metered spots between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. on Saturdays, but at lower rates than many of the spots’ weekday rates.

▪  Start charging and writing tickets at a later hour, perhaps 10 a.m. The idea is that people who spend a Friday night at Downtown bars would have a chance to collect their vehicles the next day without getting tickets. People who think ahead also could prepay their meters to give themselves a couple of extra hours on Saturday morning.

▪  Allow people to park free in metered spaces, but with a two-hour limit. This would be hard to enforce, staffers say, because the meters themselves would not keep track of violations. A person would have to do that by marking or photographing parked cars and returning later to see if the cars had stayed too long.

Councilman Scot Ludwig said Monday that he likes the sound of this proposal, because it should encourage turnover in parking spaces without discouraging customers from frequenting Downtown retailers, restaurants and other businesses.

“I don’t think charging for parking on Saturday at the meters is something that we should do right now,” Ludwig said. “But we should have time constraints so that people can’t park all day.”

▪  Finally, the city could keep offering free, unrestricted parking on Saturdays.

Councilman T.J. Thomson said he leans toward this option. Thomson said he is open to the free-but-limited proposal Ludwig likes but wants to see better evidence that business will benefit.

“If I don’t hear it from the businesses, which I haven’t, then there’s no reason to do that either at this time,” he said. “Our Downtown is still in a delicate state. We see a lot of growth, but I don’t want to kill it.”

Councilwoman Maryanne Jordan said delaying a decision might be the best choice. Besides making sure people who leave their cars Downtown after drinking aren’t punished for doing the right thing, Jordan said, the city should allow vendors for Downtown’s Saturday markets to park their vehicles without fear of a ticket.

“Preliminarily, I’m feeling like we need to hold off on Saturdays for a while,” she said.

Craig Croner, Boise’s administrative services manager, said the city can easily change metered parking rates and hours of enforcement at any time if council members decide something isn’t working.

Boise’s peer cities, such as Salt Lake City; Spokane; Reno; and Albuquerque, New Mexico charge for metered parking Monday through Saturday, according to a memo Croner and his team drew up for the council. Croner said Monday that he knows of no cities close to Boise’s size that do not charge for Saturday parking. Most do not charge for Sunday parking, he said.

Efforts to contact other members of the City Council for comment were unsuccessful.

The council is scheduled to hold a public hearing at 6 p.m. Tuesday on the parking rate proposal, which also includes rate increases and higher parking ticket prices. The meeting will be on the third floor of City Hall, 150 N. Capitol Blvd.