Keep parking free on weekends? Council reviews survey
Sixty percent of downtown employees and business owners recently surveyed oppose charging for evening and weekend parking.
The survey results will be reviewed by the Rochester City Council at 3:30 p.m. Monday during its weekly committee of the whole meeting in room 104 of City Hall.
The survey was conducted after the city council reviewed a parking rate study with Walker Consultants in early June. The review included discussion of implementing a potential $2 flat fee for weekend and evening ramp parking, which would break with the city’s long tradition of offering space for free.
At the same time, it would provide added revenue for a system designed to operate without reliance on tax dollars.
“It’s approximately a $400,000 to $500,000 difference,” Phil Baron of Walker Consultants’ Chicago office said, regarding whether to add the additional fee.
On Monday, the council will review a proposal that suggests maintaining free parking.
“Based on the input from stakeholders there does not appear to be support for charging on evenings and weekends,” Tony Knauer, the city’s transit and parking manager, wrote in a report sent to the council.
He suggested the city continue monitoring revenue from proposed rate increases to see if they will support future demand and expansion of parking facilities without the added fees.
In June, he noted the revenue is key to providing successful parking services.
“We’re a utility fund, and revenues have to support operations, along with improvements and expansion of parking,” he said.
Proposals from the rate study would increase some hourly rates on an annual basis through 2022 to help ensure the fees cover costs, while also streamlining the rate structure.
Under the consultant’s proposal, the first year of hourly rate increases would increase revenues by an estimated 23 percent, bringing approximately $763,800 in extra revenue without the weekend and evening changes.
At the same time, the proposed rate changes would maintain the city’s free parking for the first hour.
In addition to free weekends and evenings, Knauer is suggesting the city council hold off on considering an event fee, which would be charged during special downtown activities.
“This will allow time for more discussion with the (Rochester Public) Library and (Mayo) Civic Center concerning impacts, operations and event size,” he wrote in his report. “It should be noted that the event fees would only apply in the evenings and weekends.”
Members of the Mayo Civic Center Commission discussed the potential fees during their meeting Wednesday, noting the revenue could be used to monitor the economic impact of entertainment events at the center, even if the revenue doesn’t directly support the facility.
“It would be good to know, but I’d like to see some of it coming over here,” commission member Warren Harmon said.
As city council members ponder adjustments for parking rates on Monday, they will have results from the recent survey of downtown employees and business owners. The responses were split with roughly 60 percent coming from employees and 40 percent from business owners.
Here’s what was revealed:
• 53 percent said a $2 to $4 flat weekend and evening rate would be too high, while 42 percent said it was “just right.”
• 54 percent supported implementing event parking charges.
• 50 percent of the respondents said the suggested $5 fee per event was the correct amount, while 41 percent said it was too high.
• When asked about the top concern with proposed changes, 43 percent cited the cost of parking for employees, while 18 percent said customer expense was the primary concern.