Fee hikes set for downtown and rail lot parking
STAMFORD — Will adding 25 cents to the hourly cost of downtown street parking entice motorists to park in city garages instead?
Will hiking the monthly cost of parking in the Springdale and Glenbrook train station lots push the people who rarely use their spaces to give up their permits so those on the waiting list will have a shot at a spot?
Will increasing the hours of parking enforcement help raise the $15 million needed to repair city garages?
Traffic officials hope so, and members of the Board of Representatives’ Transportation Committee have approved their plan for achieving those goals. If the full board OK’s the proposal at its April 1 meeting, residents will have a chance to weigh in at a public hearing later that month.
If, after that, the plan is implemented, the cost to park in metered curbside spaces downtown will increase from $1 an hour to $1.25, and enforcement officers will monitor meters until 8 p.m., instead of 7 p.m. as they do now.
At city garages and lots, motorists would have to start paying for parking on Saturdays, at least between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m.
At the busy Summer Street garage, the monthly fee for residents would increase from $80 to $90, and non-residents would have to pay $110, which is $20 more than they pay now.
“Summer Street is running at capacity, so we want to incentivize people to use the other garages,” Transportation Bureau Chief Jim Travers told members of the Transportation Committee Thursday night.
One reason to raise more money is that the newly installed electronic meters allow motorists to pay by credit card, which requires that the city pay a processing fee, Travers said.
“It means decreased revenue for the city,” he said.
Another reason is that the last time downtown parking rates were raised was 2004, Travers said.
“That’s 15 years ago,” he said. “It’s a long time.”
It’s even longer at the city’s two commuter lots, one on Hope Street beside the Springdale train station and the other off Glenbrook Road next to the Glenbrook station.
The $3-a-day parking fee at those lots has been the same for 31 years, Travers said.
The proposal would raise the charge at the commuter lots to $1 an hour, with a daily $6 maximum. Monthly permits for Stamford commuters would increase from $45 to $60, and out-of-town commuters would pay $125 instead of $90.
That hike is designed to alleviate an odd problem, Travers said. A bunch of permit-holders in the commuter lots often don’t use their parking spaces, blocking them from use by daily parkers, he said. Enforcement officers use license-plate readers to determine which cars are under monthly permits and which pay daily.
“We hear, more times than not, from frustrated people who see 75 spaces empty every day and they can’t park in them,” Travers said.
That’s significant because “there are more people on the wait list than there are permit holders in the lots,” Travers said.
By his count, the two lots together have 198 permit holders and 228 people waiting for monthly permits, he said.
Nearly all the permit holders are Stamford residents, Travers said. He hopes that the additional cost of monthly permits will coax the people who don’t use them to give them up. To that end, the Transportation Committee approved a rule change that allows daily parkers to use permitted spaces that are empty as of 10 a.m.
Committee deliberations illustrated how officials are trying to raise money for garage repairs and change behavior at the same time. They don’t want to discourage downtown visits, for example, but they hope to draw visitors away from congested street-side parking and toward garages.
Mayor David Martin originally proposed a downtown street meter fee of $1.50. But merchants said a 50 percent hike was too much at once and would hurt business, Travers said. His staff met with the mayor and staff of the Downtown Special Services District to reach a compromise, he said.
City Traffic Engineer Frank Petise said dropping the street meter fee from $1.50 to $1.25 means a loss in anticipated revenue of about $80,000.
He and Travers said the amount likely can be made up by added hours of enforcement — an extra hour each weekday and nine hours on Saturdays — and by installing meters in areas where business owners have asked for them, such as Atlantic and Pacific streets.
“We have a meter deficiency, so we are looking at opportunities to add new ones,” Travers said.
He told the committee that the “major driver” of the fee-hike request “is to keep the Parking Fund solvent.” The fund is the source of revenue for parking-structure maintenance, and “a recent condition assessment of the garages showed $15 million in needed repairs,” Travers said.
Residents who would like to speak on the fee hikes may do so at the 8 p.m. start of the Board of Representatives’ April 1 meeting at the Stamford Government Center. If the board agrees to the fee changes, the plan will be kicked back to the Transportation Committee for a public hearing, which offers another chance for residents to be heard.
There is no date yet for the committee meeting, but it’s usually scheduled on the next-to-last Thursday of each month. If, after gathering public comments, the committee again votes for the changes, they will go before the full board for final approval in early May and take effect after that.