The Boise City Council held a public hearing Tuesday afternoon for a controversial downtown parking pilot program that would expand the hours of enforcement for on-street paid parking and install new parking meters downtown. After hours of discussion and public feedback, however, the Council voted to shelve the program until a date, which the Council agreed to set before the end of the week.
The pilot program, Ord-25-13, would expand enforcement hours for on-street parking in Boise's downtown core to 8 a.m.-8 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays, increase the cost of parking to $4.50 for two hours—$1.50 for the first hour and $3 for the second hour—and install sensor-enhanced parking meters that could be fed by change, by phone or credit card.
According to Craig Croner of the City of Boise Administrative Services Division, the program was designed to study parking trends in downtown Boise, increase the turnover of parking spaces downtown and direct drivers to paid parking spaces in garages and on surface parking lots.
"There's an economic push to balance street parking with off-street infrastructures," Croner said.
While the impetus to increase parking space turnover and discover trends in public use of parking spaces downtown resonated with the members of the City Council, how the program proposed to achieve its results drew skepticism from the council, business owners and the public.
"Could we have the pilot program without changing anything?" asked Council Member Ben Quintana, who envisioned conducting a downtown-wide survey of parking space use without raising the cost of parking.
During the public comment period of the session, Karen Sander of the Downtown Boise Association said that proposed pilot program did little to alleviate parking concerns for business owners eager to secure low-cost parking for their employees, but aggravated the perception among the public that patronizing downtown businesses would cost more.
"The Downtown Boise Association has never taken a position on extended hours or increased rates," Sander said. "Right now the perception is that I'm going to pay more for parking."
City Peanut Shop owner Dan Balluff said he understood the impetus to implement new parking technologies but said extending parking enforcement hours and raising parking rates would damage downtown Boise's charm.
"It takes away some of the sense of discovery," he said.
Boise resident Judy Rogers put her opposition to the pilot program simply: "To me, the city just looks greedy," she said.
Several speakers argued in favor of the program, including Jeff Wolf of CarPark USA, Max Clark of the Capital City Development Corporation and several representatives of parking services organizations, both public and private. Many said that keeping parking costs at their present rates perpetuated the idea that parking should be free or low cost.
"Parking is never really free," said one speaker.
The Boise City Council declined to bring the issue to a final vote or schedule a date for further discussion. The council indicated it would schedule that discussion by the end of the week.