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Council doubles parking rates

Parking your car in a metered space will soon cost twice as much.

Fort Wayne City Council members on Tuesday unanimously gave preliminary approval to a proposal doubling the rate charged by city parking meters, raising the price to 50 cents per hour. The issue is expected to get final approval next week and be signed into law by the mayor.

When those rates will be charged, however, remains to be seen.

"It's going to take a while," said City Clerk Sandy Kennedy. "That's a big job."

Kennedy said she doesn't know how long it will take to convert the meters to the higher price or when the work will begin. The city has about 700 parking meters downtown, plus more in a few other areas, such as near Parkview Hospital's Randalia campus.

There was little question on raising the rates, however, except that maybe they should be raised higher.

Councilman Marty Bender, R-at large, pointed out that even with the higher rates, it is still cheaper to pay a meter than to park in a lot or garage.

"Why shouldn't they park on the street all day?" he asked.

City Attorney Carol Helton said the increase is just the first step in a more comprehensive review of parking downtown.

"(Metered spots) are meant to be short-term, convenience spaces that have greater turnover," Helton said.

Officials said that other Midwestern cities of similar size, such as Grand Rapids and Lansing, Mich., and Dayton and Toledo, Ohio, have rates from 75.cents an hour to $1.25 an hour.

"We're taking not even a half-step here," Councilman Mitch Harper, R-4th, said.

Officials noted that the fines for parking violations already doubled when the council raised fees and fines in December. Parking meter violations had been $5 and doubled to $10 if not paid on time; at $5 it was cheaper to get a ticket than to park in a garage.

Council members also expressed hope that the increased revenue could lead to smart meters that would let users pay by credit card, but officials said the immense cost makes that unlikely. Kennedy said the city is, however, planning a pilot program with a meter company that will place a few smart meters downtown in high-demand areas. Those areas will cost $1 an hour.

"Nobody likes to raise fees, but everybody agrees this is a logical thing to do," Geoff Paddock, D-5th, said.

The Downtown Improvement District in January backed the idea, saying it was imperative for people wanting to do business downtown to have a chance at a parking spot and not have to compete with employees parking on the street all day. They also urged that the city's parking enforcement also begin chalking tires to ensure that people don't just keep feeding the meter and leave their car parked beyond the stated time limit.

dstockman@jg.net

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