Free curbside parking downtown on Saturdays and during the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays may be going the way of the Edsel if a Salt Lake City Council straw poll is any barometer.
In budget discussions Tuesday, the council unofficially endorsed by a 5-2 vote such a proposal by Councilwoman Jill Remington Love.
The council has until the end of June to reconcile Mayor Ralph Becker’s proposed $204 million budget for the upcoming fiscal year.
Becker’s plan to extend paid parking from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Friday, while raising rates from $1.50 to $2 an hour, would add an estimated $980,000 to parking revenues. During the present fiscal year, income from parking meters and tickets is expected to total $5.75 million.
The mayor’s budgets left curbside parking free on Saturdays, Sundays and holidays.
Love endorsed the mayor’s hourly rate hike. But under her proposal, paid parking would extend to 8 p.m., rather than 10 p.m., in accordance with the recommendation from the Downtown Alliance business group.
That would reduce estimated revenue in Becker’s budget by $160,000.
However, Love’s plan for enforcing paid parking on Saturdays and the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays would bring in an additional $300,000.
Her proposal also earmarks $50,000 for an outreach program aimed at informing the public about downtown parking availability at curbsides and in commercial lots.
There are an estimated 2,500 curbside parking spaces downtown. Commercial parking lots and garages downtown account for another 2,500 spots, according to the Downtown Alliance.
“I don’t think people realize how easy it is to park downtown. I drove to the City Creek Center and the parking [garage] there was empty. Everyone wants to park on the street,” Love said.
Under her scenario, the city’s parking-revenue gain would be about $1,070,000.
First-year Councilmen Kyle LaMalfa and Charlie Luke cast the straw poll’s dissenting votes, although LaMalfa said he favors extending enforcement to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday.
“I’m a little uncomfortable with adding Saturday and holidays,” he said. “That goes too far.”
In the past, street parking downtown during the holidays has been free.
“We’re trying to encourage people to come downtown,” Luke said. “We’re sending the wrong message.”
The council agreed that curbside parking should remain limited to a total of two hours. According to Robin Hutcheson, the city’s transportation director, that insures turnover and is good for business. Motorists seeking to park for longer periods should seek out private lots and garages, she said.
A minimum of one hour is required for motorists paying with credit cards at the city’s new parking meters. Shorter periods are available when paying with coins.
Several council members, including Councilman Luke Garrott, want credit card transactions over the one-hour minimum to be available in 15 minute increments. Credit card transactions are now limited to one-hour blocks. The city pays 35 cents per credit card transaction.
“I’m not interested in maximizing revenue,” Garrott said. “I just want to be fair and predictable.”