The days of hunting for the best parking spot in downtown Schenectady may be over.
Instead of trying to remember if there’s a Proctors show in town or which lots are busiest at which hours, you can now visit a website, sign up for email alerts, or check Facebook and Twitter to find your ideal parking spot.
The Schenectady Metroplex Development Authority and Laz Parking quietly launched the website and social media presence in January. With the help of the Downtown Schenectady Improvement Corp., it just started spreading the word this week.
The website, www.parkschenectady.com, provides an interactive map of the city’s parking lots and rates, and offers an email and text-alert system that will keep individuals up to date on special events, weather advisories and any parking-related news. Anyone who likes to get their news from social media can also get updates by liking “Park Schenectady” on Facebook or following @ParkSchenectady on Twitter.
The practical application of all this, explained Metroplex Executive Director Jayme Lahut, would be most appreciated on a day like Feb. 13. The day before Valentine’s Day saw the beginning of a storm that dropped more than a foot of snow on the region. So Metroplex waived its usual weekday parking rates at the Schenectady Municipal Parking Garage on Broadway and offered free parking.
“The idea was to get people out of those surface lots so we could plow,” he said.
The Albany Parking Authority provides a similar alert system and website for people looking for convenient parking in downtown Albany. It also runs a “Park Albany” Facebook page, which reassures followers that lots have been plowed during snowstorms or that parking is free on New Year’s Day.
Metroplex owns Schenectady’s parking facilities, which include 10 lots plus the Broadway garage, for a total 2,350 spaces, and contracts with Laz Parking to operate them. These spaces can fill up quickly on days when Proctors has a big show in town, making parking difficult to find for people who don’t know where they should be looking.
On a day like Thursday, when the Broadway musical comedy “Sister Act” was scheduled for 1:30 p.m. and 8 p.m. shows at Proctors, anywhere from 600 to 900 extra cars were expected to fill downtown, Lahut said.
“Demand for parking has really picked up in downtown Schenectady,” he said. “We knew we wanted to use social media to be more proactive about the city’s parking situation for different events in town or things that are going on at Proctors or major weather events. We’re just trying to keep up with the demographic of downtown Schenectady parkers, which is a mix of community college students, employees with monthly parking permits and visitors coming in for shows.”
Proctors CEO Philip Morris said it plans to include the new tools on its website, email blasts and ticketing information. People call the historic theater regularly to ask about parking, he said.
“People who are totally local, they have their favorite spots and know what to do,” he said. “But if you’re not a local or not a regular, parking can be an issue at times. The garage is fabulous, but maybe you want to eat first or maybe you come in early for a matinee or it’s a crazy busy weekend and you’re just not sure where to park. This new resource will be great, because parking has become more and more of an issue as the community’s downtown is successful.”
Depending on the events being held downtown, parking availability can change wildly. On Sunday mornings, more than 2,000 people — many by car — travel to City Hall in the summer and Proctors in the winter for the Schenectady Greenmarket. The new Park Schenectady website recommends that people park in the Center City, Clinton South or Liberty-Franklin lots on these days.
Locals may be familiar with available lots and rates, but out-of-towners planning to visit restaurants and shops along State Street and the Jay Street Marketplace now can check the website to see which lot has the best parking options.
The website’s interactive map is a quick way to check monthly permit costs and daily parking rates, which increase with the number of hours a car is parked. If you hover over a particular lot, you can quickly find out that the Little Italy lot behind Perreca’s Bakery on North Jay Street is an ideal location for local employees and dinner at Perreca’s, Cornell’s Restaurant and Civitello’s Italian Pastry Shoppe.
Lahut said Metroplex also wants to offer deals to people who are signed up to receive alerts or are following Park Schenectady on social media.
“We may be able to offer free parking at the garage one day,” he said. “The goal is to get more people signed up for our emails and liking us on Facebook.”
Metroplex paid $4,050 to build the website. The social media accounts are free.