City Council will vote on a measure to increase parking rates at meters and in city garages at an upcoming meeting. Council’s Finance Committee heard a report on a proposed 25 cents-per-hour increase from Ken Putnam, the city’s Transportation Department director, on Jan. 24. The committee voted to move the measure to Council for a full vote. If approved, the new rates will go into effect April 1.
The city’s current rates — $1.25 per hour at metered street parking spaces and $1 per hour in city garages (with the first hour free) — have been in place since July 1, 2013, Putnam said.
Prior to recommending the increase, the Transportation Department commissioned a parking study prepared by an outside consultant. That study, now in draft form, is expected to be finalized later this year, Putnam said. One component of the study included an examination of parking rates in more than 50 cities in the Southeast. Of those that use parking meters, 12 cities have an hourly rate greater than $1.25; in North Carolina, Chapel Hill is the only city that charges over $1.25. If Asheville’s rate increase is approved, it will be $1.50 an hour, the same as Chapel Hill’s.
The increases are needed, Putnam explained, to fund ongoing maintenance and investment in the city’s four parking garages. The Civic Center garage, he said, is 40 years old. An engineering study last year found that its lifespan could be extended by 30 years with an investment of $9 million over that period ($300,000 per year). Other city parking decks will also be studied, Putnam said, and the department will develop plans for their long-term maintenance.
The city continues to move forward with its parking meter-replacement program, Putnam said. The first batch of new meters is in place around the Grove Arcade. Over the next two years, all city meters will be replaced. The new meters will allow the city to charge variable rates by location or time of day. Also, the new meters have a lighted indicator, allowing enforcement staff to view meter status in the evening. Rates at the new meters can be changed instantly, eliminating the costs associated with manually adjusting meters when rates change.
If approved, rates in city-owned garages will increase to $1.25 per hour, and the first hour will still be free.