A change to the parking ordinance in Schenectady would give Mayor Gary McCarthy control over hourly rates at new electronic meters that will cover more than 150 parking spots in the city.
The proposal would eliminate existing parking rates, which were set by a current city ordinance to be either 50 cents or $1 per hour, and allow for new flexibility based on location and date. A public hearing on the ordinance will be held at 7 p.m. Monday in City Hall.
McCarthy said the new system is designed to take advantage of 20 new parking meters the city is buying at a cost of about $130,000, which are easily programmable. He anticipates using varied rates depending on events, suggesting the possibility of offering free parking for a holiday shopping day or increasing the fee for big events downtown.
Most of the year, though, parking spots that are less used would likely have lower rates and parking spots in high demand would likely cost more if the amended ordinance is approved.
“There are spots, like right in front of City Hall or the post office, where there is high turnover and you want that to be short-term parking,” McCarthy said.
The new meters require drivers to buy a certain amount of time, which can be purchased with cash or a credit card, and they provide a receipt that is to be displayed on the dashboard. Each meter covers 10 to 15 parking spots.
City Councilwoman Denise Brucker said the electronic nature of the meters would allow the city to monitor what areas are in demand and potentially adjust rates in the future.
At Monday’s hearing, McCarthy said the public will get to weigh in on when and how variations in rates should initially be applied.
He anticipates the city engineer and chief of police will also be involved in crafting the rates, with the proposed ordinance change leaving the final decision in the hands of the mayor or someone he designates.
Despite the likelihood that some rates will increase, he said the change is not being implemented as a way to implement higher rates and generate more revenue.
The city previously estimated a 40 percent increase in revenue with the new meters.
The increase, city officials said, would come from unused minutes that the next driver wouldn’t be able to use.
To maximize revenue, the new meters will be located downtown on State Street, Union Street and Clinton Street.
Brucker wasn’t concerned about giving control of the rates to the mayor and said his office was in a good position to set the rates.
Noting that rates are currently set by law, she added, “If you codify [the rates], every time you want to change them you have to change the law.”
Chamber of Schenectady County President Chuck Steiner said he hasn’t heard any complaints from local businesses about the meters or the new process of determining rates.
Because parking meters already exist in downtown areas, he said it wasn’t a surprise that businesses seemed to have little problems with a new meter system.
Steiner speculated that the modern meters would be better received because they don’t require a scramble for loose change.
He noted his own positive experience with similar meters in the city of Albany.
After a year to 18 months, Brucker said, the city should review the record of the new meters and consider phasing in more of them.