Salt Lake City Council not quite there on parking plan
By Christopher Smart
The Salt Lake TribuneFirst published May 29 2012 08:37PM
Soon, motorists downtown will be able to pay for on-street parking with a smart phone.
But that bit of news did not assuage all of the Salt Lake City Council members’ concerns regarding Mayor Ralph Becker’s proposal to boost parking from $1.50 to $2 an hour and increase enforcement hours to 10 p.m. Monday through Friday.
According to Becker’s proposed $204 million annual budget, those changes would earn $980,000 a year.
Councilman Carlton Christensen had worried out loud that under the proposal, someone taking in a movie and dinner Friday night would end up with a parking citation. Presently, parking is enforced from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Paying by phone might come in handy but, according to the mayor’s parking plan, the limit would still be two hours.
"I would like to see some flexibility that would allow for more than two hours," Christensen said Tuesday. And he also would like increments smaller than the 60-minute options now available.
Robin Hutcheson, the city’s director of transportation, told the council the new parking meters could be adjusted so that time over the one-hour minimum could be added in increments.
But the two-hour time limit is critical for turnover, Hutcheson said. "And turnover is good for business."
In addition, she told the council that extending paid parking into the evening is supported by the Downtown Alliance business organization. Free parking after 6 p.m. leads to employees using prime parking in front of restaurants.
"When Seattle increased its enforcement to 8 p.m., restaurant receipts went up 5.4 percent," Hutcheson said.
Among the reasons to boost rates is to encourage motorists to use the 25,000 private parking spaces downtown on surface lots and in parking garages, Hutcheson said.
The council has a lot to digest before it signs off on the proposal, Councilman Kyle LaMalfa said.
A year ago, before LaMalfa took office, the council raised the parking rate from $1 an hour to $1.50; that rate increase went into effect in January.
LaMalfa said his constituents are against raising the rate again.
He noted, however, that the Downtown Alliance favors the bump to $2 an hour, as well as a two-hour limit.
The average for private parking downtown is $2.50 an hour, according to the administration.
But the Downtown Alliance wants enforcement to extend only to 8 p.m. LaMalfa said that is more reasonable than 10 p.m. and would accommodate people dining out.
"I would like to shift the 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. enforcement to 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.," he said.
There are a lot of policy decisions to be made on parking, agreed Councilman Luke Garrott, who said he doesn’t necessarily favor a rate increase. "It seems like some compromise will be necessary," he said.
But time is running short. The council must approve a budget, and therefore a parking plan, by June 30.