Rochester to increase parking rates Feb. 1

By: Mary Beth Almond | Rochester Post | Published January 12, 2022

 Parking rates in downtown Rochester will increase from $1 an hour to $1.25 an hour beginning Feb. 1.

Parking rates in downtown Rochester will increase from $1 an hour to $1.25 an hour beginning Feb. 1.

Photo by Mary Beth Almond

Map provided by the city of Rochester

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ROCHESTER — Patrons will soon have to dig a little deeper into their pockets to park in downtown Rochester.

The Rochester City Council recently unanimously approved a parking rate increase — from $1 per hour to $1.25 per hour. The new rate will go into effect Feb. 1.

Rochester City Councilwoman Nancy Salvia said the city’s Parking Advisory Committee looked at 19 options provided by the Finance Department in an effort to help make the city’s parking system self-sufficient. 

“We are not trying to make money on the system. We are trying to break even,” she said.

City Manager Blaine Wing explained that the economics have changed since the current parking system was established.

“From what I have read,” Wing said in an email, noting that he didn’t start with the city until 2015, “the original system had several assumptions, from use, types of payments, hours, etc., with the goal of being or working towards being cost neutral. However, not knowing behaviors, actions, or yet having actual data, adjustments from time to time need be made. That occurs with parking systems all across the US and is part of the reason why communities and parking lot vendors make adjustments. Besides use of the parking system, which is down since COVID-19, there are also higher costs for maintenance (striping, crack sealing, and maintaining lots), replacing meters (similar to computers approximately every 7 years), which are needed to (keep the) system functioning.”

Mayor Stuart Bikson said the city’s Parking Advisory Committee considered a number of options — including changing parking hours and days — but ultimately recommended raising the overall rate by 25 cents an hour.

“By raising it to $1.25, that will make the system self-sufficient — and that includes the parking garages and also the surface streets as well,” Bikson said.

Rochester offers a number of parking options for patrons — including up to three-hour metered on-street and alley parking; up to 12-hour metered off-street parking; and two parking platforms, which allow all patrons to park free for the first hour. 

“Adding that quarter, still keeping the first hour free (in the platforms), really seems to make a lot of sense,” Salvia said. “It generates $225,000 a year by adding a quarter.”

“We’re not looking to make money, we’re looking at this to be a break even — and when we say ‘break even,’ it’s maintaining a fund balance of $460,000,” City Councilman Mark Albrecht added.

Councilwoman Amanda Harrison said the rate increase keeps the city “competitive” with the rates of other communities. 

“We’re not way out in left field,” she said.

Councilwoman Ann Peterson also supported the move, but she said she wants to make sure the city doesn’t increase the parking rate every year. 

“We can’t continually raise this, unless something significant happens,” she said. 

The city is currently home to four free parking areas — 102 spaces near Pine and Sixth streets, 132 spaces near Water and University streets, 88 spaces near Water and East Third streets, and 47 spaces near Main and Diversion streets. 

The council recently decided to make Parking Lot 1, which includes 40 spaces near Water and University, another free parking lot.

They also authorized the city to use $275,887 from the city’s parking fund to purchase 735 new Civic Smart parking meters to replace its existing parking meters, which were installed between 2013 and 2014. 

Rochester Police Chief Steve Schettenhelm said the city’s current meters run on 2G cellular technology, which is being phased out and requires the city to upgrade its system to 4G cellular technology, which he said will happen in February.

“That’s how we process credit cards, when people want to use a credit card to park in our parking spaces,” Schettenhelm said. “4G is anticipated to last for quite a long time, at least 10 years, but (there is) no forecasted end date currently.”

Downtown Rochester’s parking meter hours are 9 a.m.-9 p.m. Mondays-Saturdays. The city will continue to offer free parking Sundays and on federal holidays.

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