With gas prices soaring to new highs on a nearly daily basis, car owners will at least be getting a bit of relief when it comes to parking in Collegetown. Two weeks ago, the City of Ithaca Board of Public Works (BPW) voted to lower rates at parking meters and the Collegetown parking garage, reversing a previous increase which had drawn protests from business owners concerned that the higher rates in place since January were driving away customers. At the Aug.10 BPW meeting, board members voted to reduce hourly rates at Collegetown parking meters, from $1.25 to $1. Hourly rates at the Dryden Road garage also fell to $1 from $1.25.
The rate reduction pleased Collegetown business owners who had opposed an increase of 75 cents in the rates last January.
“We definitely noticed when the rates went up in January,” said Dylan McNeilly, the owner of The Pita Pit on Dryden Road. “Employees complained because they were having to spend a lot more of their paychecks on parking, and customers ended up parking in the no-parking zones rather than pay the higher rates.”
Although he welcomed the decreased rates, McNeilly argued that rates at the Dryden Road garage “should have gone down drastically,” since even with the Aug. 10 reduction, the hourly cost of parking is still 50 cents higher than at this time last year.
Jennifer Dotson, vice chair of the Board of Public Works, explained why the BPW took the unusual step of changing parking rates in the middle of the year.
“The reason we looked at adjusting the rates mid-year is that with that big rate bump last January [from 50 cents to $1.25] we did lose some parkers. Revenue was not increasing, and we were seeing fewer and fewer people were parking there [in Collegetown],” Dotson said.
BPW Commissioner Claudia Jenkins agreed with Dotson’s assessment that the higher rates were not bringing the expected revenue boost. Following the January rate increase, parking meters and garages in downtown Ithaca were cheaper than those in Collegetown, leading to what Jenkins called “a mini-protest by shoppers,” who showed their disapproval by staying away from Collegetown, leaving rows of empty parking meters.
At the root of the parking issue, according to Jenkins and Dotson, is one basic problem.
“The parking garages have to pay for themselves, which they are not,” Jenkins said.
“What people should understand is that the City does not recoup the expenses that we put into parking garages,” especially the new $19 million dollar garage on Cayuga Street next to the Commons, Dotson said.
“When you put all the money together that the City gets from the four garages we operate, the fact is that we are subsidizing parking on a city-wide level,” she added.
Regardless of the politics involved, many students like George Cornell ’06, who lives in Collegetown and owns a car, were just happy to see the parking rates go down.
“It’s certainly a relief that we get to pay less for parking,” Cornell said.
The new rates will stay in effect at least through August 2006 when, according to Jenkins, the BPW will re-evaluate the situation. Still, Dotson, who opposed the rate reduction, worried that people might become too attached to the lower rates, which she felt would be a mistake.
In the long run, she said, “the rates are going to have to go back up. There’s just no way around that.”
Archived article by Elijah Reichlin-Melnick
Sun Staff Writer