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February 5, 2014

New downtown parking meters to go live soon

On-street meters to run 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday-Saturday at $1 an hour

By Mary Beth Almond
C & G Staff Writer

» click to enlarge «
New downtown parking meters to go live soon
Rochester Department of Public Works employees Steve Drotoz and Chris Ahlgren drill the sidewalk to install new parking meters in downtown Rochester.

ROCHESTER — After more than a year of free parking along Main Street in downtown Rochester, patrons will soon have to dig back into their pockets to park on the street.

Rochester’s Department of Public Works’ crews have begun re-installing parking meters along Main Street, which are expected to be up and running the week of Feb. 24.

“For over a year, we’ve not had parking meters on Main because we’ve gone through the parking strategy and parking study to determine what type of meters and what fee to place on those meters before we invested in putting them back after the Main Street Makeover. Throughout that time, the back streets have still operated,” City Manager Jaymes Vettraino said.

The return of the meters was recommended in a downtown parking analysis from McKenna Associates that the city commissioned last year. City officials say the Downtown Parking Strategy — which features both on-street and off-street parking recommendations — is designed to outline 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.

The council approved the on-street parking recommendations included in the analysis last summer.

The majority of parking meters have been re-installed at their locations prior to the Main Street Makeover, Vettraino said, with the exception of a few additional meters added on the side streets. But drivers should note that there have been some changes, including the cost, the time of enforcement and the type of meter installed.

Before the Main Street Makeover, patrons paid 25 cents per hour from 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday-Saturday on coin-only meters to park on-street downtown. Now, visitors will be required to shell out a dollar an hour from 9 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday-Saturday, but they will have the option to use their credit card or coins to pay for on-street parking.

Vettraino said the on-street parking fee and enforcement time were increased based on the needs of the city’s parking system.

“One of the goals of doing all the changes was that the parking would pay for itself — that it becomes a break-even operation,” he said.

Currently, the city and the Rochester Downtown Development Authority contribute about $225,000 annually to support the downtown parking system, Vettraino explained.

Because the meters are very similar to the city’s previous parking meter heads and no one needs to go to a centralized kiosk, Vettraino said the city expects that they will be “well-received and easy to operate.”

“These meters on Main Street, and on the cross streets on that first block are really step one in implementing a parking system that allows for growth and pays for itself,” Mayor Jeffrey Cuthbertson added.

City Council is expected to weigh in on the off-street parking recommendations included in the Downtown Parking Strategy during a Feb. 10 public hearing.

The off-street parking recommendations include implementing a parking management system for all off-street lots, including some metered, as well as some free lots based on their proximity to downtown; building two parking platforms, one at University and Fourth on the west side of Main behind Mr. B’s, and other at University and Fourth on the east side of Main behind the Main Street Plaza; and instituting a special assessment for many of the businesses downtown to contribute to the parking fund until it become self-sustaining.

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