Patrol times, some parking costs may increase in the city
Posted: February 19, 2013
The Winchester Star
WINCHESTER — If you park in some of the city’s most desirable parking spaces, you may soon have to start carrying more change.
The Winchester Parking Authority will bring two initiatives to City Council at tonight’s work session. One would allow the authority raise the cost of parking at the digital meters — which are located in the most desirable downtown parking spaces — and the other would extend the time that all meters are monitored by two hours.
The steps, authority members think, would yield about $41,000 more each year and help reduce projected deficits over the next three fiscal years and prevent deficits thereafter.
“We need to look hard at what we’re doing,” said authority Executive Director Samantha Anderson, “to continue to operate 24/7 every day of the year.”
The Parking Authority was created in 1964 to facilitate and manage parking resources in downtown Winchester. It was subsidized by City Council for years.
But Richard Helm, the authority’s chairman and a former City Council member, said that changed about six years ago when then-councilor Tim Coyne commented that parkers, not city taxpayers, should “bear the lion’s share” of the cost of parking.
“It didn’t take long,” Helm said, “for that to morph into parking being a self-sufficient entity.”
The authority now receives no subsidy. Its revenue comes from monthly or hourly fees paid for the use of about 500 parking on-street and surface-lot spaces and more than 1,700 garage spots, as well as parking tickets.
But for the past three years, it’s operated at a deficit because of its approximately $580,000 annual payments for the $7.68 million George Washington Autopark, which was completed in 2009. Anderson said those garage payments run until 2037.
The city’s three other autoparks also need about $1 million in renovations, a consultant has determined. Anderson said the authority hopes the city will pay for those repairs; if it doesn’t, they likely will be put off because the authority doesn’t have enough fund balance money to cover that expense.
To help offset the deficits, authority members have proposed charging 75 cents an hour for drivers to park in prime metered spaces located along or within the Braddock Street-Cork Street-Kent Street-Fairfax Lane quadrangle, beginning in July.
The current fee is 50 cents at all garages and meters. That would remain the rate for garage spaces and at lesser-used mechanical meters.
Such a change is projected to bring in an extra $26,250 annually.
The meters also are monitored from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily, but the authority is asking that parkers be required to pay until 6 p.m. That is expected to yield an additional $15,000 each year.
To this point, increases have been limited to monthly and long-term daily garage parkers.
They now pay $42 a month to park in covered spaces and $35 a month for rooftop spots. In 2006, covered spots in the Braddock Street garage cost $30 monthly and the Court Square and Loudoun Street garages were $25 monthly; all rooftop spaces were $19 per month.
The daily maximum for hourly parkers in the garages has risen to $10 from $4.
Though metered spaces aren’t meant for long-term parkers, Helm said that if monthly fees keep rising, some people might be tempted to abandon the garages and try to feed meters all day.
Authority members have resisted imposing planned $5 annual increases to the monthly fees, but Helm said it’s reaching a point where they’ll have to keep hiking rates unless City Council decides to foot some bills.
“I think we’re at a tipping point where the city either says we have to raise our rates or, to keep us viable, the city will subsidize parking,” he said. “We’ve tried the last few years to be the administrator of public policy rather than the creator of public policy, so we need to know what council wants us to do.”
Anderson said the city’s autoparks have 940 monthly customers and served 94,000 hourly parkers in 2012.
Depending on council’s decision, Helm said increased hourly rates for garage parking could be on the horizon.
Both parking officials said the city’s downtown core has evolved from being a 9-to-5 business center to being more of a round-the-clock lifestyle hub, with an increasing number of residents.
“Old Town is evolving into a multi-use district,” Anderson said, “and we need to manage the parking accordingly.”
— Contact Vic Bradshaw at firstname.lastname@example.org