Such a huge increase in parking meter rates not justified

Increasing the rates at the prime and busiest downtown parking meters by a significant amount is not justified, and is not good business.

While we appreciate the extensive work that Gregory J. Wilson, assistant city manager, did in formulating ideas for City Council to consider, with all due respect, business in the business district is not bursting at the seams that such increases in parking rates are merited.

The rates should stay the same as they are so parking downtown continues to be among the most affordable compared to cities of similar size in Pennsylvania.

Though some might argue there should be no parking meters in this town, the 25-cents-per-hour rate on Main Street is fair and reasonable, not to mention the 15-minutes-for-free button.

Jumping to 50 cents per hour puts us closer to rates in Williamsport and State College, and we all know there’s no comparison.

Meter rates in State College are $1 per hour, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., with a varied time limit up to 5 p.m., and a 3-hour time limit after 5 p.m.

In Williamsport, it’s the same, though listed as 25 cents per 30 minutes on streets and lots and– we know — it’s actually 25 cents per 15 minutes in some spots.

Now, in Lock Haven, most meters on the prime business blocks on Main Street are 25 cents per hour.

It’s tough to make a living in this business district as a small businessperson.

Most of the people who park at meters downtown do so because:

1) They’re stopping briefly, or for an hour or two to buy or eat.

2) They work downtown and thus park where there is no meter, or where rates are the cheapest.

Raising rates to 50 cents per hour on prime parking meters will not help businesses, and will have the effect of limiting parking options.

A good public servant does their homework and knows where the money is, so a close look at Wilson’s proposal shows that he did probably one of the most in-depth analysis of parking in the city than ever before by looking at income per meter and trading the removal of 50 meters in certain blocks downtown for higher rates on Main Street.

Indeed, a close look at his recommendations briongs us to the conclusion that the meters (and businesses) on the prime blocks of Main Street would bear the brunt of the higher parking costs.

Wilson did a lot of research and his recommendations are worth restating here:

r Adding the 20 meters on East Main Street that council has already given the nod to. There are enough meter heads, including those in basement storage, to do this, council heard. This is aimed directly at the Clinton County government employees who park in this block. Well, many of those workers-parkers will move to the Piper Blue Building at the airport next year if the commissioners’ purchase plan goes through.

r Removing the 15 meters on both sides of East Water Street from Mill Street to Nesbit Lane and instituting a two-hour parking limit on this section of Water Street. This is a good idea… these meters are in front of a church.

r Removing the 20 meters on First Street from Church to Water Street. This is where many permanent residents or apartment dwellers park.

r Removing the nine meters on Grove Street from Church to East Bald Eagle Street. This will help Fox’s Market House Restaurant, Dutch Haven down the street, the salon and residents in between.

r Removing the 10 meters on Vesper Street from Church to East Bald Eagle Street. We rarely see vehicles parked in this stretch, so we know the city is getting very little revenue here.

r Instituting a two-hour parking limit on these streets where there are no meters: East Main from Locust Alley to Henderson Street, and East Church Street from Jay to Henderson streets.

r Setting the on-street meters to give a maximum parking time of 2 hours and 15 minutes (including the free 15 minutes the user receives when he punches the meter button).

r Setting the meters in all seven parking lots to give a maximum time of 8 hours and 15 minutes (including the free 15 minutes).

r Establishing the maximum parking time a vehicle may stay in a space in a lot at 8 hours and 15 minutes, except for vehicles with permits.

r Issuing 76, eight-hour parking permits for the lots at 60 percent of the face value of monthly parking. These permits would probably be used by downtown employees who work daylight hours.

r Issuing 30, 24-hour parking permits for the lots at 75 percent of that value. Residents of the district would likely use these permits.

r Enforcing the meters weekdays only, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

There are merits to some of what Wilson proposes.

And the assistant city manager is right on when he said, “The better the businesses do, the more money the city makes (in taxes), and the lower the taxes everyone else pays.”

City Council must find ways to boost business, not hamper it.

Businesses will not do better if the cost to park downtown skyrockets.