February 1, 2005

Parking Meter Rates Rise in Collegetown

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Next time you drive to collegetown, you will need to carry a bit more change with you: the price of parking has gone up. Collegetown merchants and customers are upset and are taking their complaints all the way to city hall.

Bill Gray, superintendent of public works, said the price of parking meters rose to 25 cents for 12 minutes — $1.25 per hour — on Jan. 1. It was previously 75 cents per hour.

Gray said the common council adopted a budget for 2005 that was developed in fall 2004. The budget includes revenue from dog licenses, business occupational permits, parking permits and parking meters. Last year, the budget was $505,000; this year, it is $736,000.00.

Gray said that it would be difficult to bring in this much revenue, commenting that $700,000 would be a lot of money for the city and “parking meters to pull in.”

Gray also said that many collegetown merchants complained that they would lose customers. However, Gray noted that “when they complained, the college kids weren’t even here yet.”

Chuck Cooley, owner of Classic Optical and spokesperson for the College Town Merchants Association, believes that is exactly the problem. One major issue is that when the changes were made to the meters, Collegetown’s representatives for the common council, Michael Taylor ’05 (D-4th Ward) and Gayraud Townsend ’05 (D-4th Ward), were out of town for winter break, Cooley said.

“We feel [the meter price increase] was unfair and unjust and done without consideration of anybody, so we formed a group of people to go against it. Initially we understood that collegetown paid more for parking. We didn’t like it, but we felt we had no choice. Now, we are kind of aggravated,” Cooley said.

The merchants plan to speak at a City Hall meeting in front of the public works board tomorrow. They have managed to get more than 500 signatures on a petition.

“Enough is enough,” said Sam Schuepbach, the petition’s starter and owner of Aladdin’s, who believes the main objection concerns collegetown “being treated as second class. Downtown gets two hours for free.”

When asked whether the merchants wanted lower prices or just to be on the same level with downtown, Sam said, “naturally we want the rates lowered, but the second issue is that we have two different rates now.”

Both Schuepbach and Cooley have received complaints from customers about the parking meters. Cooley has even had to pay for some of his customers’ parking passes. Schuepbach says employees have told him that they really need to think about working at Aladdin’s because they cannot afford the parking.

Maria Coles, acting mayor of Ithaca and liaison between the Common Council and the board of public works, says that a large part of the reason why parking rates are going up is because of decisions made in the 2003 administration. For instance, that administration decided to build a parking garage on Cayuga street that cost approximately $19 million. She mentioned that there are limited ways in which the city can pay for things like that. Coles has heard that the decision to make collegetown meters higher than downtown ones is based simply on supply and demand. There are more people who want to park in collegetown. It’s important to recognize that collegetown is not the only part of Ithaca that is complaining, Coles said.

She noted that the West End complains that it does not have parking lots, and no matter how big the budget may be, “all of the money we charge for meters and parking does not pay what it costs the city to provide parking.”

In order for the merchants to get public works to consider their complaints, “someone would have to point out to us where to get this money,” she said.

Archived article by Ikea Hamilton
Sun Staff Writer