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Downtown Parking Costly Fiasco

January 21, 2018

When Scranton City Council in 2012 financially blew up the Scranton Parking Authority against abundant warnings about the consequences, it changed the very concept of downtown parking.

Now, rather than the means to support downtown businesses and economic development, parking has become a creature unto itself, existing primarily to ensure its own survival.

Last week contractor ABM Parking illustrated the transformation. Without notice, it abruptly took 50 meters out of service. And after Jim Lockwood of The Times-Tribune reported that the meters were down, the contractor responded by rendering the affected parking spots unavailable for parking. After complaints from some businesses, ABM opened some spots serving businesses but not others.

The objective had shifted from ensuring that downtown businesses have parking available for customers, to making sure that none of those customers get away from parking for free at disabled meters.

Due to a previous city council’s idiotic decision to allow the Scranton Parking Authority to default on its debt, rather than cover it, the Courtright administration was forced to cede public control of parking — and public accountability for it.

The result is vastly more expensive parking at meters and in garages, and a parking regime that no longer conducts open meetings or solicits public input. Three city officials — Mayor Bill Courtright, Controller Roseanne Novembrino and a member of city council — are members of a seven-member oversight board, but they do not regularly report to the public about what that body does.

The Courtright administration and city council need to revisit the parking protocol with an emphasis on the big picture — returning it to an enterprise that serves the overall purpose of downtown prosperity rather than a separate entity that drives up costs, hinders progress and acts according to its own priorities.

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