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What you need to know for 08/20/2017

Schenectady Council vote set on parking fee plan

Schenectady Council vote set on parking fee plan

It might soon cost a lot more to stop for a burrito during a Proctors musical.

It might soon cost a lot more to stop for a burrito during a Proctors musical.

That 15-minute stop for takeout could cost up to $10, according to a new parking fee that the City Council will vote on Oct. 15.

If it passes, the city could set a flat fee of up to $10 for every parking space near Proctors during events. Mayor Gary McCarthy said he likely wouldn’t implement that change for six months.

The parking lots near Proctors already charge $10 during events. The parking garage is always free.

Some theatergoers try to snag a metered spot on the street instead, since they are currently only $1 an hour. The meters are also free after 6 p.m., so savvy parkers circle the downtown, searching for an open spot to park for free just before their show.

Under the proposed new rates, the mayor would be able to increase the fee on those spaces to any amount up to $10 during events. That would make the pricing fair for all theatergoers who try to park near the theater — but it would be a substantial increase for those who simply want to stop briefly downtown to make a purchase.

The council will also vote next week on a maximum hourly parking fee for non-event periods. In committee Monday, the council agreed that maximum should be $1.50.

The council stressed that the mayor could choose any lower amount — including $0 — for any time period. The mayor could also change the parking stations regularly, adjusting the fee in response to traffic downtown.

Each change will cost the city $100 per parking station. The city is installing 19 stations, to replace 147 parking meters downtown.

The plan has an obvious problem if the city plans to makes a lot of one-day changes: If all 147 parking spaces were occupied at $10 for the night, the city would rake in $1,470, but it cost the city $1,900 to change the fee, a $430 loss. But the city is hoping to get the cost reduced if it buys more parking stations.

Council members were clearly reluctant to pick rates Monday. They have postponed the decision for months, and finally McCarthy told them they had run out of time.

“You have to do something or the meters will be programmed with the current rate and we’ll have to turn around and pay to get them reprogrammed,” he said.

Still, council members said they didn’t want to raise the current maximum of $1.25 per hour.

“That’s the highest rate I’ve ever paid” in the area, said Councilwoman Leesa Perazzo.

Councilman Carl Erikson added that “the administration” should ask for specific rates.

McCarthy refused.

“All I would ask is you make a decision,” he said, adding that the rate was the council’s choice.

Finally, Council President Margaret King said the discussion clearly revolved around a $1.50 hourly maximum and a new flat fee of up to $10 for events, and called for a committee vote. It passed, placing the item on the agenda for the full council vote.

McCarthy said later that he would phase in the fee changes slowly.

“This whole thing is building flexibility into the system. Let people use ‘em, get a feel for them. You don’t put in a two-tiered price system [right away],” he said.

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