Business owners worry as city proceeds with pilot parking meter program

Spring Street owner Cynthia Schroeder started a petition against the city's parking meter pilot program. She says lack of parking will harm her business. Staff photo Spring Street owner Cynthia Schroeder started a petition against the city’s parking meter pilot program. She says lack of parking will harm her business. Staff photo

While the city is moving ahead with plans to install more than 150 parking meters around the Downtown Mall, some local business owners are expressing their displeasure.

The city intends to contract with IPS Group, a major national parking meter vendor, to install meters for a six-month pilot program and expects to have the program up and running by September, city parking manager Rick Siebert says.

A petition from the Downtown Mall Alliance, which is against the parking meters, recently circulated, garnering about 325 signatures.

Cynthia Schroeder, executive director of the Downtown Mall Alliance and Spring Street owner, says it was easy to get people on board with the petition, but she was unable to speak on its behalf at a City Council meeting because of the lottery process for public comment.

“The people, they just don’t want it, and it’s coming anyway,” Schroeder says. “I would do more, but I don’t know what else to do.”

Since the city has finalized a contract with IPS and is working on the logistics of the pilot program, Schroeder says presenting her petition seems hopeless.

The initiative mainly targets areas directly adjacent to the Downtown Mall between Second and Sixth streets. Of the 157 on-street parking spots included in the program, 97 currently offer free two-hour parking during most times of the day, according to the city’s parking information website.

The metered spots will also have a two-hour parking limit, and will operate Monday through Saturday from 8am to 8pm with a rate of $2 per hour.

The metered parking would make it harder for people to work on the Downtown Mall, Schroeder says, and could also limit the time customers spend in her store for fear of being towed.

“The rotational parking is just not going to work,” Schroeder says. “I think that the metered parking is gonna be the demise of the mall.”

City Council voted 4–1 in favor of the parking meter six-month pilot program in April 2016.

Councilor Bob Fenwick, who called the measure “governance by resolution,” at that time, cast the only dissenting vote.

Siebert says four separate parking studies conducted by the city since 1986 have all recommended the management of on-street parking near the Downtown Mall.

“I recognize that people may have legitimate concerns,” Siebert says, “but we believe that this program will help the businesses and customers of the Downtown Mall, not hurt them.”

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