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July 17, 2013

New board to focus on city’s parking system

By Mary Beth Almond
C & G Staff Writer

ROCHESTER — A new advisory board has been created to provide guidance to the City Council in the management of Rochester’s parking system.

The City Council formed the Parking Management Advisory Board — a non-administrative board serving solely in an advisory capacity — in June. The goal of the board, according to city officials, is to consider and provide policy recommendations to City Council regarding parking in the city.

Mayor Pro Tem Jeffrey Cuthbertson, who said he actually suggested the creation of this board and recommended that it play an active role in providing regular updates and policy suggestions to the City Council, expects the board to be on top of the parking situation, so the city is not commissioning a parking study every 10 years.

“The issue, quite frankly, is getting away from us as a community. We are maxed out on parking, and we should never be in a position where we’re responding, after the fact, on the scale that we are,” he said. “Every month that goes by costs the taxpayers $10,000 in subsidies from the general fund. This committee needs to meet ASAP, and it needs to get moving on implementing the strategy.”

Councilmember Cathy Daldin agreed, stating her belief that, for the next year, the board is going to have to do “a lot of work.”

The city recently commissioned a downtown parking analysis from McKenna Associates to quantify current parking supply and demand, and to develop recommendations to address parking issues. John Jackson, of McKenna Associates, which serves as the city’s planner, said the Downtown Parking Strategy would help city officials understand existing parking conditions, develop a model to predict the adequacy of the parking system, and develop a strategy to manage parking in a sustainable manner for the future.

One of the primary recommendations coming out of the parking strategy that was delivered to City Council in May was that the city have a consistent review of its parking strategy.

“Rochester, over the years, has done a number of parking strategies, and each time, we find improvements and we react,” Vettraino said. “The parking strategy said that the city should have a dedicated home for parking-related advisory matters — whether that be an existing board, or some other board — and they suggested that a combination of those boards that most touch parking be the way to go.”

The new board consists of five voting members appointed by the mayor — including the mayor, one member of the City Council, one member of the Planning Commission, one board member of the Downtown Development Authority and one city resident, as well as four non-voting members — along with the city manager, the DDA executive director, the police chief and the city planner.

“(The Parking Management Advisory Board) will meet … on a consistent basis and just make sure that … plan one is to implement the strategy as presented to City Council by McKenna and Associates. And from there, monitor how parking is in our downtown area. As we get more development plans and get visited by a number of developers — it’s pretty exciting — that are looking to put more downtown, it just keeps becoming more and more important that we have a full-time committee focusing on one of our most important assets,” Vettraino said.

For the last few years, the city has contributed about $180,000 a year to its parking system, Vettraino explained.

“That is for parking lot maintenance, parking enforcement officers maintaining the parking lots, and maintaining the meters. All the costs added up, minus the revenue we bring in, is a loss of $180,000,” he said.

The good news, according to Vettraino, is the parking strategy identified a number of ways to close that gap — whether it’s better enforcement, replacement of parking meters that were removed as part of the Main Street Makeover, rate changes, better management of city lots, posting and enforcing time limits, establishing pay lots, or various other ideas.

“Our goal is to make this a break-even proposition for parking for the city,” he said. “Any number of ideas came out of the strategy, and the sooner we can get those implemented … the quicker we get to close that gap of revenue, or the loss.”

Besides looking at ways to make the parking system work better financially, Vettraino said the Parking Management Advisory Board would explore how to make it work better for building owners, tenants and customers.

“It’s comprehensive. It’s not just about the dollars; it’s also about function,” he said.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Mary Beth Almond at malmond@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1060.