Parking meters downtown?

At the City Council’s last Parking Task Force meeting, the city staff stated the only solution to the deferred maintenance problem in the downtown garages is to install pay-and-display meters on-street downtown (but leave the garages free for customers).  The fee is estimated to be $1.25 per hour.

What effect will paid, on-street parking, have on downtown?

To read more about the Council’s Parking Task Force, click here.  You can attend the last Task Force meeting on Tuesday, April 2 at 7:30 AM in the Anderson Room at the LIbrary.


52 thoughts on “Parking meters downtown?

  1. I believe that someday we will need parking meters in the downtown. I am not sure when that time is. I dont believe it is now or within the immediate future. If and when we actually come to require parking meters I hope we can think differently about what we need.

    There are different parking needs for businesses and customers throughout the downtown, one parking rule does not apply for all. For example, when there are activities at the Riverfront park, businesses west of Commercial require short time parking, 30 minutes. Otherwise folks park and walk to the park for hours. This clogs up parking spaces and customers are not able to access businesses

    No one likes to park, go a half block get ticket, go back to car, put ticket on car correclty, then go to store. This is what pay and display demands. Apparently, you can get a ticket for putting your display ticket on incorrectly.

    I like the idea of electronic controlled individual parking stalls. The parking stalls can be monitored and controlled from central location. Electronic recoginition can identify empty stalls, can determine who is parking there (visual recoginition of license plate), and can change parking times based on specific needs of the block. Electronic controlled parking stalls can monitor parking 24 hours, that way enforce parking during evening and night time.

    Finally, if we ever have parking meters, free parking should continue. The first 30 or 45 minutes should be free, then longer term parking kicks in. The notion of free parking is a great promotional advertisment for the downtown.

  2. I love the ease of paying for parking in Portland, and being able to take your parking tag and use it at another spot. Debit card is a must. I too would like to see a few more handicapped spaces. What I would really like to know are the names of the concerned citizens who are behind this wordpress site?

  3. I was told all business in the downtown area paid the parking tax. What do you know?

    • It is my understanding that non-profits and Wednesday Farmers Market do not pay parking tax as well as other businesses operating in the downtown.

      • More importantly, events at Riverfront Park are not charged for the free parking paid for by the downtown businesses. The City charges Riverfront events for all the direct costs to the City; police, permits, traffic, garbage, etc, but no parking costs. So, it’s okay for the city to recoup their costs, but not to recoup the downtown’s costs.

        Government doesn’t pay any parking tax. Marion County pays no tax, but has 1,200 visitors a day – who all have to park in the street. Also, jurors – everyday Monday through Friday. The City of Salem offices in the Chemeketa Parkade pay no parking tax.

        The Conference Center pays no parking tax. The Grand Hotel, next door to the Conference Center, only pays the minimum $197 a year. The citizens of Salem paid the full cost of all the underground parking and the Hotel gets to use it for $197 a year tax payment. I think there are 182 parking spaces under the Conference Center/Hotel, but the Conference Center has one room that holds 1,200 people. . .

        If the City wants to increase revenue, why don’t they charge $1 for everyone who comes to the Conference Center and hotel? That would be over $100,000 a year of new income. Instead, the City is going to put parking meters on-street downtown next year.

  4. Many cities that once had parking meters in the downtown are taking them out. Salem took out parking meters in the 70s. Nothing has changed. No reason to put them back in.

    The pay and display machines do not make much profit. They are costly to maintain. City staff should know this. Putting meters in the downtown during regular business hours and not after hours is an attack on day time businesses. This discriminates daytime business against evening and nighttime.

    The amount we pay for parking tax is not that much and is worth keeping meters off the street. There are many businesses in the downtown that do not pay any parking tax. Maybe all businesses should pay before anything happens.

    If parking meters are in downtown they must include night time hours, at least till 2:00 a.m. If not, then I am willing to join other businesses in paying for attorney fees to fight restriction of trade issues against the city.

    • The City is using the same consultant they used to justify 2hour parking. The consultant told the City, if they just put in 2 hour parking limits, they would get $500,000 in new ticket revenue annally.

      The most recent budget showed the city is LOSING $100,000 a year becasue enforcement costs are more than ticket collections. Good job Salem citizens – your a law abiding bunch.

      Now the same consultant is telling them they can bring in $1 million more a year with meters. . .

      Where is our city council? Why do they keep listenting to staff and consultants who are wrong? The City Council is elected by us, to represent us.

  5. If Salem wants to help downtown without pushing people to go to businesses outside of downtown, the city needs to raise the cost of parking at big box stores. This “free” parking is not free and amounts to a subsidy to these types of businesses. I also think that the city needs to encourage neighbourhood business nodes where people can shop, etc near their homes.

  6. Does anyone have the estimate on how much the electric bill will be for “Portland-style” meters will be for those that would be installed downtown? How much will it cost to install the meters? Will the meters be owned by the city, or by a private firm that will take a profit from the revenue?

    • The city has talked about solar powered meters. It is unknown the cost of purchase, installation, cell phone fees, and credit card costs of the new meters. The city may know those costs but they have not provided that information to the public. All they say is the recommended fee would be $1.25 an hour for the first several years. There has been nothing made public about who will own the meters and what would be done with any profit.

  7. I would hate to see parking meters in downtown Salem. I think the area needs to become more user-friendly if we are to achieve the vibrant downtown that Salem needs. I would support 3 hour parking on the streets and toughen the fines for downtown employees who cheat the system.

    • The City consultant’s report showed downtown Salem did not meet the national threshold for time-limit parking. Until that threshold is met, why should downtown have any limit on the time people can park? The City’s consultant told them ” You have so much excess parking in downtown, you could add 1,700 new shoppers a day and not notice it”.

      • I agree the amount of parking downtown is excessive. The only problem seems to be turnover in a few areas of town. I would notice 1700 new shoppers though. It would make downtown a much more exciting place to be!

      • I checked how many employees have been issued tickets in the years since 2 hour limits were implemented. Over the past three years, tickets issued for employees illegally parking on-street averaged 30 tickets a year. But the city issued 1,300 warnings to employees annually.

        Before 2 hour limits, the city issued 476 tickets annually to employees illegally parking on-street. There were no statisics available on warnings issued.

        • I would love to know the real amount of funds that fall through the cracks in the form of downtown employees using the parking structures but not buying the permit. I see it almost everyday! This is only an example of how more funds could be raised for maintenance of the facilities. My real concern is more about how the current shortfall was created in the first place. Are we counting on the same people to manage the new funds that have been unable to budget the funds in the past? If so, is throwing money at the problem going to help?

          • Several part-time, minimum wage employees downtown cannot afford $50-$60 a month for a parking permit in the parking structures. They are parking illegally on-street. Your right, it is a big problem.

            The current shortfall was created because the city deferred maintenace on the garages year after year in favor of keeping staff employed. Now there is a large deferred maintenance problem in the garages and the city feel either the businesses, or their customers, need to pay up.

            People have encouraged the city to consider private management of the parking garages, but the city has shown no interest – their priority is to save city jobs. Roy Jay, the owner of SmartPark in Portland, spoke recently and recommended private management and installing paid parking in the garages, like in the Portland airport. The city ignored his recommendation in favor of keeping their jobs.

            At the Portland ariport you take a ticket when entering the garage, and pay at a koisk before getting back in your car. The City could charge $1 for parking so every employee, and customer, to make it easily affordable – and the city would double their income from the garages overnight. Even if some customers decided not to pay the dollar – that would be made up by the employees, who currently park on-street, moving into the garages where they should be parking.

            Revenue, and employee-parking-on-street problems both solved.

  8. If this is truly going to happen I am saddened that the advertising arm for the merchants, that had solid merchant meetings discussing downtown possibilities that could help create fun and excitement downtown will not be there to be a part of offsetting the negativity caused by paying for parking.

    • It is interesting to note, the year before the City implemented 2 hour parking in downtown, they terimated their downtown organization. Now the city wants to install parking meters and, again, the city terminates their downtown organization. Is this about terminating organized opposition because they have the power to do it? The city has terminated 3 downtown organizations in 7 years. Not a very good record of their ability to work with citizens.

  9. All of this rhetoric is nonsense, we have had study following study over the last ten years, and the recommendation is always the same – parking meters. Good common sense and logic of most will always tell you the same – a City of 150,000 residents requires Parking Meters.

    • Parking meters are a parking management tool – they should not be used as a revenue tool. When this tool is used wrongly, it damages the health of downtowns.

      The most recent studies show Downtown Salem does not have the problems that warrent meters-or even parking time-limits. The vehicle turnover rate and occupancy are both well below the national threshold that would make meters a good decision.

  10. i thought old-fashioned parking meters were expensive to maintain? what about the kind they have in portland where you put a credit card into a centralized machine on each block and get a piece of paper for the dash of your car?

    if they install parking meters they should get rid of the parking tax that we business owners have to pay currently to keep parking free.

    for our business i’d prefer that it at least be a three hour limit (or unlimited). the two hour limit is too tight. and i think i’d rather have it be unlimited, free street parking downtown (maybe meters around the Capital) and you pay to park in the garages (the guy who came down from Portland had a good overall plan).

    • There are meters around the Capital. For those staying more than 2 hours, the garages make more sense. Those are the people that are here for a day in the city and enjoy exploring it on foot. On street parking is better for the people making a quick stop at one store.

    • The city has only ever considered Pay and Display meters in Salem. Exactly like the parking meters in Portland.

      Would you support Pay and Display meters if the Parking Tax were eliminated? Currently about 1/3 of the total parking tax is paid by Kohls, Penneys, Nordstroms, and Salem Center businesses.

      If meters were installed, department store customers would still have free parking in the garages (at least until the City installs meters there also). All your customers would have to pay. It seems like eliminating the parking tax is more of an advantage to the department stores than to the small shops.

      Also, remember the Parking Tax was voted in by all the voters of Salem – for 2 reasons only. 1.) Downtown promotions (to fund our downtown organization) and 2.) a program of public parking. Since the parking garages weren’t built until several years after the Parking Tax was created, it seems unfair to ask the Parking Tax to cover the cost of parking garage maintenance. All the other parking garages owned by the City are paid for in the General Fund.

      If you eliminate the Parking Tax you also eliminate the funds for a downtown organizaiton – how do you propose to fund a downtown organization?

  11. I’d like to know how much the city has spent on the parking consultant, what the source of that revenue was, and who the consultant is. So far estimates from the consultant would suggest that if the special downtown parking tax were eliminated, it would be a wash–hardly solving the problem of paying for parking structure maintenance. If the parking tax is retained, and there are meters, it will really hit downtown businesses hard. The big problem is that the parking task force meets at 7:30 in the morning, when it is impossible for most members of the public to attend the meetings.

    • The City has spent approximetly $20,000 a year on parking consultants. The funds come from the Parking District Fund. The same fund that cannot afford to pay for the maintenance of the garages. . . .

      The amount meters can generate is based on how much the city charges, and how often they raise that cost. If pay and display meters are installed, it will be very easy for the City to increase the hourly charge as often as Council will let them.

  12. I’m coming because it appears this is something not yet mentioned. I grew up in Portland and have had business is there and in the Salem area. The challenge of not having paid parking in primary areas, sadly, is that employees and workers use them and then there is no parking for shoppers!
    I concur but the new Portland system of debit card for the amount of time you need to be downtown is wonderful. I also think it’s an incentive when there is parking validation options for having shopped or eaten at restaurants in a downtown area and I don’t
    know how that could work with this debit card
    system. The next biggest challenge to shopping. Is going to be online buying so easy and quick helps to entice customers.

    • Downtown Salem had free unlimited-time on-street parking for over 35 years. If an employee (or business owner, volunteer, juror, student, resident, etc) were caught parking on-street their first ticket was $100, their second ticket was $180 and all tickets after that were $250. The City used to write about 500 of those ticket a year. It was effective until the City decided it was “too difficult” to enforce and started talking about time limits and meters.

      If parking in downtown Salem was so tight, the business owners would be down begging city council to implement parking management tools, like time limits and meters. They aren’t.

      You may have noticed the types of shops downtown is shifting. We have more restaurants, bars, entertainment, and beauty salons downtown – and less retail. Services and products, that cannot be purchased over the internet, are increasing downtown each year.

  13. I don’t mind paying a little for the convenience of parking on the street. If I don’t want to pay, then I’ll opt for the slightly less convenient free parking in a garage. In keeping with Don Shoup’s book on downtown parking, the parking policy needs to be:
    -adjusted based on real-time demand, so that there are always at least a few free spaces for people who want to pay for it.
    -free in the garages or less desirable blocks, or until occupancy of spaces hits about 85%.
    -set up so that all receipts are reinvested not just in garage maintenance, but also sidewalk amenities, cleaning, enforcement, etc to make downtown a great place to just “be”.

    Here’s a short video about Mr. Shoup’s theories regarding downtown parking.
    The video includes a great story about downtown Pasadena, CA and how the fortunes of the town turned around only after they started charging for the most desirable on-street spaces. It sounds like now they have more visitors and stronger businesses than ever before, (and likely more cars parked somewhere in/near downtown). The point of priced parking isn’t only to raise some much-needed revenue, but to maximize use of less-desirable spaces, and to always have a few “expensive” spaces left for those who place a high value on convenience.

    • It would be nice to have a place to park when you have a class without getting a ticket. Is there some way this can be done. classes are often held at whitlocks or greenbaums for sewing.

    • The City consultant’s report showed the full parking district only reached an occupancy of 75% during the most congested portion of the day. The turnover rate (number of unique vehicles using each space per day) in downtown Salem is 7.9 unique vehicles a day. Any downtown with a turn over rate of 5 or more is considered to be functioning well.

      Maybe Pasadena needed meters/time limits for the right reasons – parking management. Downtown Salem has never reached those thresholds.

      The consultant who recommended implementing time limits also promised the use of the downtown garages would go up if there were time limits on-street. In fact it went down. People just stopped coming downtown, and when they did come downtown, they left after 2 hours.

      This isn’t about parking, it’s soley about additional revenue for the City.

      • Old Pasadena put meters in for a revenue stream that was used to improve downtown. It was a blighted area before the meters. Meters became popular because people paying for parking knew the revenue was used to improve the town. Over time, the improvements paid for with parking revenue made it an increasingly pleasant place to be, which drew more visitors. This sounds like the original intent of Salem’s parking district before the garages. Now the garages have become a liability.

        • You are right again. If the city dedicated the income from meters to improving downtown, the feeling might be different. It is not so much fun to pay for deferred maintenance because the city voted not to maintain the garages for several years.

          Either all the city owned garages ought to be funded through the General Fund, or all the city owned garages should be the financial responsibility of the people who benefit from the garage.

          • I know they increased the fees at the Library garage. Pringle Parkade is metered and the rate is $1.50 an hour now.

  14. If there are more meters downtown, we will definitely shop there less. There is too much available at the other malls.

  15. I don’t like them. They will drive the business customer to the outer region malls. Salem needs to make the downtown a draw for people and not someplace you only go when you HAVE to.

  16. If they’re putting in meters the city needs to cancel the hefty “parking” tax that all downtown businesses pay to keep the parking free, otherwise they’re getting that money under false pretenses since the tax was instituted to pay for free parking when the meters were taken out all over downtown back in the 70s.

    But more importantly two hour parking is not enough to keep many businesses alive — so if these are two hour meters Salem will just have the same number of empty downtown storefronts that we do now. And all of us tax payers will have to pay for the cost of all those new meters while more and more landlords will have to deal with their downtown spaces being unattractive to businesses.

    Downtown parking needs to be long enough that people can shop at more than one store and stop for lunch or coffee. Right now folks come downtown to get a meal OR to shop at one or two stores, but not to spend an afternoon. The only way to have a healthy downtown that has something other than chain stores and fast food restaurants is to make parking easy and comfortable for the clients of the little boutiques and specialty services in a way that allows those customers to spend an entire afternoon dumping money into our economy. (And don’t tell me that they can park in the garage — the folks who park there are going to one of the locations attached by a skybridge or just across the street, they’re not walking 5 blocks in Oregon weather just to get to the block where they’ll get their hair done.) My business is across the street from Busick Court Restaurant, and after waiting in line for 30 minutes for breakfast/lunch how many of their customers go shopping downtown after they eat? Or walk over to Riverfront park? They don’t — they leave, because they know if they stay they’ll get a ticket.

    Get rid of the meter idea — or better yet, put some in around the capital building to get some dollars from the tourists. But leave the downtown shopping area street parking free AND change the limit to a more shopping-friendly 3 or 4 hours.

    • I agree with most of Ms. Hart’s comments. We are talking about Salem, not Pasadena or Portland. It seems most people do not stay very long in downtown Salem. I don’t think parking meters will encourage them to stay longer when they can always go to Lancaster Mall or Keizer Station and park for free. Having various events, like Wednesday Market and First Wednesdays, are helpful to draw people downtown. There are meters around the State Capitol, but I don’t know if that revenue goes into the downtown parking structures maintenance fund.

      • The revenue from the parking meters around the Capitol goes into the City of Salem’s General Fund to pay for police officers, library, fire, etc. It does not come downtown.

        About 80% of daily visitors to downtown stay 90 minutes or less. This is true on the national level also. The 20% who do stay longer are usually shopping longer and spending more money.

        I think Downtown would like people to stay as long as they want – and spend as much as they want to support the businesses downtown. Both 2 hour limits, and parking meters, do not welcome shoppers to stay and shop. We already know from the City’s consultant that downtown customers DO NOT like using the City garages -so they just leave after 90 minutes – 2 hours.

      • I agree with Suzanne, I feel Most will not come downtown if there are other Choices, We have lost customers due to parking. We are across from waterfront which most park to go to Park. Most will go other places like Keizer Station or Lancaster which parking is not a Problem and Free.

  17. How come? How come the city can spend a zilion dollars on studying the transit mall boondoggle AND the ‘need’ for a third bridge – even tho fewer cars cross the river these days – but can’t find money for deferred maintenance?
    The last thing we need is to make shopping downtown more difficult. Let’s defer shelling out dollars on boondoggles instead of deferring necessary maintenance.

    • Completely agree about the bridge, but the city hasn’t spent anything on the transit mall. It’s the county and the transit district that has paid for that mess.

    • Does the current system make it easy to shop downtown? Spots are rarely available where there is the most demand. Get the price right and retailers will have spots open in front of their stores. Retailers can then choose to reimburse their customers when they buy something. Under the current system, retailers are essentially paying for a system that keeps spaces locked up, with no assurance that the tax translates to actual sales.

      • The only time parking is tight in downtown is during the lunch hour (when you would expect tight parking). Fortunately, most of our downtown restaurants are located in a small confined area. The City’s study showed there is always parking available within a block of this area – even during the lunch hour.

        The City consultant reported “80% of women will walk 750 feet from where they park to their first destination, the other 20% will walk farther, as long as the area they walk through is engaging.”

        You may be solving a problem the downtown doesn’t have.

    • I agree. AND the Minto Brown Bridge comes to mind as well as another item that does not really help our infrastructure. The downtown should be one of Salem’s prime gathering places – to meet others, to create, to shop. Parking should continue to be free in many areas — and I agree that 2 hours is not enough — should be three.

  18. I agree. You have to make it super simple – the Portland model is very well done. I can pay for 3 hrs and take the tag with me. I don’t have to dig around for piles of quarters..etc.

    I do disagree strongly that we need more handicapped parking. I have several handicapped relatives so I am sensitive to the need, but I always note that the HC spaces are very very low usage. I’d be willing to bet less than 3% of business hours.

    In the big picture making parking downtown more expensive does discourage people from coming downtown. This is a commuter town and people are used to free plentiful parking at the malls and walmarts.

    • Charging users for parking does not increase the cost of parking. This is about who pays not about how much it costs. The cost of parking at stripmalls and Walmart is reflected in the price you pay at the register.

      • How is the cost of the parking on-street in front of your house paid for? Why is it free in front of your house, in city parks, etc, and more costly downtown? The downtown property owners pay property tax, the same as residents in neighborhoods. Should downtown have the expectation of equal treatment in who pays for what?

        If the city is going to adopt a special tax system for any property adjacent to a public amenity, why don’t people adjacent to Bush Park pay for the maintenance of the park? Their house values are positively impacted by their proximity to the park.

        This is not about parking at all – it is about how the City can generate more money because they have let the downtown garages deteriorate. If the other city owned garages are paid for in the General Fund, why aren’t the downtown garages?

        • The parking and roads in my neighborhood are paid for with property taxes and a tiny amount by residential parking permits. That system is not financially sustainable. Most residential areas have unfunded maintenance liabilities and I support parking benefit districts in residential areas to pay for those and other neighborhood improvements.

          Everyone pays for the parks system and those resources are distributed throughout the city. Downtown property owners benefit from Pringle, Marion, Riverfront, Wilson Parks and amenities like the Union St. Bridge and the Minto Island Bridge. I don’t think the garages are amenities, they are financial liabilities.

          I agree it is about revenue and I agree there is excess parking downtown. If there is a benefit to having a parking surplus, then we need a revenue stream to pay for it. User fees are generally the fairest way to do that. If the garages are not wanted the city should sell them. If downtown business don’t want to pay for the garages then have them removed from the parking district.

          I’m not familiar with the other garages that are paid for out of the general fund. The library and Pringle Parkade are metered.

          • My point exactly. The revenue shortfall is in parking garage maintenance. Put meters in the three downtown garages- charge a dollar a day. The majority of people who use the downtown garages are either employees (paying for parking) or department store shoppers (allow department store to validate and lower their parking tax) The City would DOUBLE the income from the garages overnight. Problem solved without putting meters on-street.

  19. If you are going for meters the pay and display is a,must…VERY easy in Portland…no quarters needed…seems less horrible when you put it on debit…good in any parking place in town, not just the one meter where you have paid…a few more handicapped spaces are needed downtown…

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