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OK Schenectady parking fees and move on

OK Schenectady parking fees and move on

Council should empower mayor to set rates within ranges

Schenectady Mayor Gary McCarthy and City Council members are engaged in a game of hot potato over the setting of rates for those new high-tech parking meters.

That’s understandable since parking has always been a controversial subject in Schenectady, and no one wants to get blamed if taxpayers get hosed to the tune of $10 to park for an event at Proctors or, as reporter Kathleen Moore pointed out in Tuesday’s Gazette, even to stop for a quick burrito if there’s an event at the theater and the new parking stations are temporarily calibrated to charge that much.

But the buck has to stop somewhere, and one person makes more sense than a handful, so McCarthy should be the one: The council needs to approve some maximums and give the mayor (or his designee) the flexibility to change rates up or down as he sees fit. Yes, they’ll all take some heat if/when rates go up, but what’s wrong with a little accountability?

As for whether it makes sense to do any changing, that’s another matter. If the company the city is buying these meter stations from is going to charge $100 per station each time rates get changed, it wouldn’t make sense to change them even once. As Moore’s story also pointed out, were all 147 spaces at 19 stations filled, garnering $10 a pop, the city would only make $1,470 — not enough to cover the $1,900 cost the company would charge to recalibrate the stations. So changing the rates would be pointless.

McCarthy’s reasoning — that people who park at spaces covered by the stations should pay what those who use Metroplex lots pay — is also a bit off, since only two of the downtown Metroplex lots (the one directly behind Proctors and the one on Broadway) raise their rates for big-deal Proctors events. (They really shouldn’t engage in such predatory pricing just because they can get away with it: It’s a good way to alienate return business.) But he’s right that if the council does agree to give him the right to make changes, he should go slowly. Motorists used to traditional parking meters will need lots of time to get used to the new system (although it’s used in many cities nowadays, including Albany and Troy).

As for the company charging so much to recalibrate the parking station fees (which it can presumably do remotely, via Internet), the city needs to negotiate a new fee structure or get someone in-house trained in the art.

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