The future of Parking Meters in Davenport, Iowa

A motion on the agenda of the Davenport City Council next week directs the council to remove all on-street parking meters downtown, increase monthly fees in the city-owned parking stations  (called ‘parking ramps’) by $5, and prepare an ordinance that will increase parking ticket fines through a sliding scale. A first violation would cost $20, jumping to $40 for a second and $50 for three or more parking violations for exceeding the two-hour free limit.

According to an article on the Quad City Times site, the meter issue was at the centre of a lengthy and animated budget discussion earlier this winter. Free parking downtown – which was instituted as a pilot program in late 2009 – exacerbated a revenue problem facing the parking program. Between lost meter revenue, fewer people leasing off-street spaces because they can park on the street for free and fewer tickets being issued for overtime parking, the city is bringing in a half-million dollars less in parking revenue. Meanwhile, the city owes $600,000 on the general obligation bonds it issued to construct the parking stations.

The majority of councillors were swayed by downtown merchants and others who said long-term growth has been stunted by the parking policy. Without the parking fee impediment, they argued, more people will shop, eat, visit and choose to open businesses downtown, creating more tax revenue for the city – and making up for the lost revenue stream from the parking meters.

Parking Today’s blog picked up the story, and we would like to add our support to the comments published in the blog. It is expected that the next stories to come from Davenport following the removal of the paid on-street parking will include “lack of parking availability on the street”, “overly aggressive parking enforcement is killing downtown”, “employees and commuters taking up all the parking spots” and “parking garages are underutilised”.

This is an important lesson for those Australian councils who are in the process of planning their parking strategies, emphasising the need to do the homework right before embarking on the roller coaster of parking meters.

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