SARATOGA SPRINGS — Parking, or rather, the shortage of it, is always an issue in downtown Saratoga Springs, and this week is no exception.
To try to get downtown parking spaces to open up more often so visitors can find convenient parking, new hour limits are going into effect at the city-owned parking facilities closest to Broadway -- a move that is raising a few hackles.
Since new three-hour-limit signs went up on the Putnam Street parking garage late Monday, city officials and business leaders have been hearing the complaints -- and the city is working on a response.
Under the new rules, the two-deck parking garage with entrances on Phila and Putnam streets now has all spaces on both levels limited to three hours. Previously, all those spaces could be used by a single vehicle for up to 48 hours.
While the Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce advocated for the time limits, chamber President Todd Shimkus said the city plan for the Putnam Street garage went farther than the chamber expected.
The chamber supported having the lower level with a three-hour time limit, but felt the upper level should be available for all-day parking. Instead, the city applied a three-hour limit on the upper level.
"Everybody who has called me, I have said we should take a look at tweaking that," Shimkus said on Wednesday. "The plan wasn't etched in stone."
City Public Safety Commissioner Peter R. Martin said changes are possible. "I'm looking at some alternatives right now," he said late Wednesday. "I don't want to completely change back. This is the product of a number of discussions. I would certainly look at some modifications."
The limits are part of a plan that was approved by the City Council in April, but are only going into effect now.
So far, the other new downtown parking restrictions haven't generated much comment.
New three-hour limits also apply to the surface and ground levels of the four-story Woodlawn Ave. parking deck, though the upper levels will carry a 24-hour limit. The limits in that lot are only in place from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily.
The two-story deck farther north on Woodlawn will also have ground-floor spaces restricted to three-hour parking, with the upper level restricted to 24-hour parking.
The changes -- all to parking spaces that previously had 48-hour limits -- are intended to make it easier for visitors who want to shop on Broadway to find parking.
"Merchants on Broadway and adjoining streets have complained that potential costumers, many of whom are not familiar with the layout of the City of Saratoga Springs, cannot find parking," Martin said in a statement released earlier on Wednesday. "This may result in potential customers choosing not to shop in the city."
Twenty-four hour parking in city-owned lots remains available nearby, in most of the Spring Street surface lot, the upper levels on Woodlawn Avenue, and on side streets like Phila and Caroline if people are willing to park east of Henry Street.
"The continued success of our city requires changes to keep our downtown attractive and accessible to visitors," Martin said. "This is a delicate balancing exercise, but we believe that we have implemented a fair plan."
As a long-term solution, the city is working with the Saratoga Springs City Center on plans for a mixed-use project with a parking garage on Maple Avenue. The land is now occupied by a large 277-space surface parking lot, and the proposed Flat Rock project would increase the number of spaces to more than 750. But that project is still several years away, assuming it is approved by the city.
Shimkus said the new time limits apply to between 800 and 900 spots, out of about 2,300 parking spaces available in or near downtown.
"We need to work on a comprehensive plan for managing our parking, and we're not there yet, but we need to do something immediately because there's an immediate problem," Shimkus said.